Since the late 1990's to present the U.S. Justice Department has vigorously went after the Nuestra Familia prison gang in an attempt to weaken and/or dismantle the organization's criminal element and hierarchy. In doing so it used Operations Valley Star & Black Widow to prosecute numerous Nuestra Familia leaders and associates. In 2005, the Nuestra Familia's top five leaders were sentenced to life in federal prison and sent to Colorado's "Super Max" prison in Florence, Colorado as a result of these operations.
But the governments crack down on the Nuestra Familia created chaos within the organization and led to a power struggle on the streets of California. Many members and associates became disenchanted with the politics and how the organization was functioning and as a result many began to drop-out. That exodus created a perfect storm for the emergence of the Northern Riders. In 2000, the first recorded presence of the Northern Riders within the California prison system took place on the yard of the Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy, Ca. when Northern Riders gang member Maurice Vasquez declared war on Norteno inmates, according to California State Prison officials. Some argue that the Northern Riders originated in the Sacramento area. Whatever the case, they are in just about every SNY (Sensitive Needs Yard) facility in the California State Prison System and growing.
What separates this gang from others is it's plan to recruit drop-outs from both Norteno and rival street gangs according to an article in The Californian, a Monterey County newspaper, dated May 7, 2010. With the emergence of the Northern Riders on the streets of Northern California it will only mean more violence and more killings as they look to infiltrate long standing Norteno & Sureno turf. It is also an automatic death sentence according to Article III section V of the Nuestra Familia Constitution and punishable by death to be drop-out. A rule that both Nortenos and Northern Riders are aware of and assures more violence on the streets of Northern California.
In 2005, U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer who presided over the federal case against the Nuestra Familia warned federal prosecutors just after sentencing the top leaders by saying,
"This was a very expensive prosecution, involving millions, Federal prison officials now, need to make sure they keep the gang from spreading throughout the country the way it spread through the Calfornia prison system. The responsibility for keeping the gang under control is now in the hands of the Federal Bureau of Prison."
Unfortunately, those fears have become reality and here we are six years later and the Nuestra Familia prison gang has split into two entities, a federal prison gang with national franchises throughout the country and a California state run entity with a grip on Northern California. In addition to that it has also mutated into a third Northern Riders gang with growing influence and power within the California prison system. Hopefully history will not repeat itself as it has for other prison gangs that rose from the prison yards of California, but the government looks for new ways to stop the spread of all gangs.