Shortly after those fights, two American Indian gang members reportedly attacked two Hispanic gang members at a private prison in Lawton. Both of the attack victims were hospitalized with hatchet wounds.
In September 2010, a large fight involving the Surenos and the Indian Brotherhood, an American Indian gang, broke out in Hominy, sending another two inmates to the hospital for treatment.
Authorities said the brawls started in different housing units at the same time, leading them to believe the fights were coordinated as well.
Last year, Sureno gang members were involved in a brawl with white inmates at prisons in Lawton, Hominy and Granite.
Prison officials said the Aug. 22, 2011, fights started first in Granite, just before noon.
A few hours later, similar brawls erupted in Lawton and Hominy, sending more than a dozen inmates to the hospital with stab wounds.
Right now, however, there is a kind of peace inside Oklahoma's prisons.
“We don't really have a war right now, fortunately,” Townsend said. “But there's probably something brewing that we don't know about.”
Jerry Massie, spokesman for the Corrections Department, acknowledged that the Sureno gang is among the most powerful in the state's prison system, but said bestowing a “most powerful” title is not as simple as it seems.
“Most powerful ... is going to change by facility to facility,” Massie said. “It's going to depend on the numbers at each facility. It's going to go back and forth. It's a fluid situation.”
Massie said prison gangs fighting for power often battle themselves in addition to their enemies.
“A lot depends on whether they are getting along within their own group ... that will change from time to time,” he said. “And it also depends on leadership ... whether they have a strong leadership in place can be a big factor.”