CMIT Hosts Annual Gangs Conference in Austin

Gang Tattoos
Gang Tattoos

Two former gang leaders recently helped enlighten 250 professionals from corrections, probation, police departments, sheriffs' offices and school police on gangs in Texas.

Gangs have been making big new across the country for decades, and Texas is not immune to the threat. To combat the trends, The Correctional Management Institute of Texas, a part of the SHSU Criminal Justice Center that provides ongoing training for professionals in the field, hosted the Annual Gangs Conference on Aug 2-5 at the Omni Hotel in Austin. The conference featured T.J. Leyden, a former neo-Nazi skinhead, and Oscar "Ossco" Bolton, a former member of the Crips.

Leyden of Utah founded StrHATE Talk Consulting, an organization that combats hate, bigotry, intolerance and discrimination through education. The author of Skinhead Confessions, Leyden worked for the Task Force Against Hate at the Simon Wiesenthal Center and was a featured speaker at the Clinton White House Conference on Hate.

After his nephew was killed by gang violence, Bolton of Kansas City, started Peers Organized to Support Student Excellence (P.O.S.S.E.), which is a "positive" gang or peer mentoring organization. In 1993, Bolton was a representative at the "Gang Summit," a national effort which brought together community leaders and gang members for peaceful discussions. He also created and designed "Operation Break and Build" to understand the causes behind the gangs and violence. He was appointed by two Kansas City mayors to task forces on violence and citizen complaint.

Bolton said that criminal justice professionals, as well as young people, need to show leadership to make a difference with gangs. He said education, not arrests, can help combat the problem.

"You have to give a different outlook on the badge," said Bolton. "You have to help youth so they will respect, not fear or hate the badge."

Participants also learned about the latest prison gangs, including their tattoos, activities and outside connections from Emil Garza of the Security Threat Group at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. A member of the Texas Violent Gang Task Force, the Texas Gang Investigators' Association, the National Major Gang Task Force, and the Victoria Gang Task Force, Garza testifies in court as an expert witness in Security Threat Group-related matters and conducts anti-gang presentations for law enforcement, out-of-state gang task forces, and private and public schools.

Among the other topic covered at the conference were drug cartels, Barrios Azteca, Aryan Brotherhood/Aryan Circle, Tangos, Gangs on the Internet, Gangs in Schools, Females in Gangs and Identifying Sources of Program Funding. The event was sold out.

Member of The Texas State University System