Tyrese Sharod Smith still calling the shots on the street. The founder of the King Mafia Disciples had established a violent reputation in Salt Lake City in the early 1990s as he sought to make the gang he founded while serving time in juvenile detention the most powerful in the region. As KMD tried to build notoriety through robberies, drug deals and attacks on rival gangs, Smith's rap sheet grew. He landed in prison in 1994 for a drive-by shooting -- and then arguably committed his most violent acts from behind bars. Gang members operating on Smith's orders in February 1996 shot 19-year-old Joey Miera through an open window as the teenager slept on the floor of his cousin's Salt Lake City home. Miera, who had no gang ties, was killed in a case of mistaken identity. The brutal case spotlighted an aspect of security in Utah's corrections system that has found renewed importance with a recent spike in gang membership and violence: how to keep gangsters in lockup from contributing to crime on the streets. Vigilant watchfulness » It's a job far more complicated than just keeping a gang member behind bars until his or her sentence is completed, and one both the prison system and Salt Lake County Jail have devoted more resources and officers to in recent years. "Most of the public, they look at it like the guy has been picked up, he's gone through the court process and now, everything is good," said Pete Walters, who oversees the gang unit at the Utah State Prison and is president of the Utah Gang Investigators Association. "They get to make phone calls. They are all allowed to get and send letters. The majority of them have visits. … They, a lot of times, still have an influence over some of the groups in the neighborhood." Walters' job, and that of other gang investigators in the corrections system, is to figure just how much influence certain gang members have and how the information officers gather on the inmates could thwart plans gang members may be making from inside their cells. In an activity known as "fishing," inmates can pass messages between their cells by way of make-shift delivery devices called kites, made with a piece of string, a note and a weight. Letters can contain hidden code words, symbols, or drawings to signal an attack on a rival. Phone calls could also contain hidden messages. Corrections gang officers are trained to intercept and decode the hidden messages. The officers chat up inmates to find out which gangs are feuding, and, most importantly, talk with local law enforcement agencies.
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