When a gang member goes to the Bristol County House of Correction in Dartmouth, sheriff deputies pick up where the NBPD Gang Unit leaves off.

According to officials with Sheriff Thomas Hodgson's department, often, an individual will become involved in a national gang when they are behind bars; the Sheriff's Office use its own checklist system to validate the person and share that information with local police.

"We will watch them and see what we can get on them," said Sgt. Nicholas Drinkwine who is assigned to the Special Investigations Unit.

Most of the gang members at the House of Correction are local gang members, but since the early 2000s over 150 local and national gangs have come through the facility, said Sgt. Clinton Silverio, also assigned to the Special Investigations Unit. 

The national gangs currently at the House of Correction include Latin Kings, Gangster Disciples, Crips, Bloods and Folk Nation, according to Silverio. The local gangs currently at the House of Correction are Monte Park, United Front, South First Street and Potter Street — four New Bedford neighborhood gangs.

The validation process serves two purposes — inmate and officer safety on one hand and identifying the inmate to a particular gang on the other, said Nelson DeGouveia, head of the Special Investigations Unit.

The information is helpful in placing inmates in housing units as rival gang members are placed in separate units, he said.

Drinkwine said the NBPD Gang Unit is particularly helpful in providing the House of Correction with information about juveniles who come there, and they, in turn, inform New Bedford police if a local gang member becomes affiliated with a national gang while in jail.

Sometimes an individual comes into the House of Correction with no gang affiliation and leaves with one, he said, explaining they get "recruited" for safety issues inside and often feel "pressured" to join a gang. "We call New Bedford and they were unaware of a new gang affiliation," he said.

Gathering intelligence

Gang members have fewer legal protections when they are in jail, and corrections officers use that authority to gather intelligence on them, Drinkwine said. Corrections officers don't need a warrant to search an inmate's cell. "We search their cells for anything gang-related. We watch them on video and notice who they are hanging with," he said.

"We have to stay on top of them. It's easier to do here than on the streets. It's a great place (the House of Corrections) to gather intelligence," DeGouveia said.

Silverio, Drinkwine and DeGouveia said when a gang member goes to jail, they represent their national gang, if they have one, and leave their local neighborhood gang in the background. "A lot of time they ask you what you rep, what you bang," Silverio said.

There are self-help programs through the state's Shannon Grant, a gang prevention fund, at the House of Correction, if an inmate wants to disassociate themselves from a gang, they said. The programs include mentoring to get them out of a gang, substance abuse and work release.

"We'll put them in the right program, if they want to get their lives back," DeGouveia said.

"Being a gang member inside doesn't prevent them from bettering themselves," Silverio said.