Life won’t be any cakewalk from here on out for James Byrd. The 45-year-old will be spending what will probably be the rest of his life in solitary confinement for his actions as a kingpin for the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. “He will be in a box for 23 hours a day,” said Tarrant County prosecutor Allenna Bangs. “That will be 50 very hard years.”
The Texas Rangers, the Department of Homeland Security, the United States Bureau of Prisons, the FBI and local Texas police departments have been targeting the white supremacist Aryan Brotherhood since 2009. Though a prison gang, “The Brand” operates on the outside and participates in drug trafficking and high levels of violence. From behind the walls of federal prison, Byrd has called shots and orchestrated violence. He was also big time out in the world. The Houston Chronicle reports:
In the five months Byrd spent free in North Texas between federal sentences, from late 2013 to early 2014, he held the Brotherhood’s highest rank for members outside prison—major. In that time, Bangs said, he had worked with success to dominate the North Texas meth trade, had become “very influential” in the gang and had amassed a loyal following.
He also committed some brutal crimes; once he stabbed a man 37 times in the face, and another time he stabbed a man, soaked a piece of bread in his blood, then ate half and shoved the rest in his victim’s mouth.
It was the authorities’ intention to move Byrd from federal prison to state prison, where policy permits isolation due to gang activity. Without the ability to communicate with the outside world and higher-ups in the organization, or simply spend time on the prison yard (where a lot of Aryan Brotherhood business is done), Byrd will be shut down. A major cog would also be thrown into the gang’s operations. They were able to turn Aryan Brotherhood members to rat on Byrd by promising more time to visit with family members and decreased sentences. “It was very significant to remove him,” said Bangs. “His removal in and of itself really calmed things down quite a bit. Because he can call shots, he can communicate with the higher ups.”