The Brotherhood: Trebian: BOWW members ‘looking for family’ in group
Jerod Trebian pens letters in flowing cursive. He reads Shakespeare and quotes Nietzsche and has long been captivated by the field of psychology. He says he adores his ex-wife’s children and hopes they learn from his words, not his actions.
Trebian is a man with a troubled, violent, drug-fueled past. He has been convicted for numerous offenses – theft, first-degree assault, heroin possession, disobeying an officer and violating a protective order, among others.
But that’s not all.
Of the three suspected BOWW founders who spoke with the Monitor for this series, Trebian was the most forthcoming about his personal story and views. Though he declined to comment on his affiliation with the group, the 35-year-old did discuss the prison environment, and the role gangs play in it. Many of Trebian’s statements are at odds with police accounts.
More than 17 years have elapsed since Trebian first entered a New Hampshire prison – roughly half his life. When he arrived in 1996, on charges that he had disposed of stolen guns, he was a “skinny little kid,” Trebian said. “Far from a leader.” He said his experience behind bars – the friendships he built, the customs he learned, the words and ideas he absorbed through books – shaped him.
Regarding BOWW, Trebian would like the public to believe this: It is not the pervasive, villainous enterprise that law enforcement paints it to be.
The group’s purpose is twofold, he said. It exists for protection, but also to provide white inmates with a sense of belonging – a sense that many have never previously felt.
“There’s no rite of passage anymore,” Trebian said. “Nothing to say, ‘I’ve done the things to become a man.’ That’s what the group is trying to establish for them.”
“That’s what the big draw is, really, for gangs across the country,” he added. “Kids growing up without a father figure, looking for family.”
Despite statements from prison and police officials and information included in recruiting documents, Trebian said the group has not spilled onto the streets.
“Branching out their criminal empire? Bulls--t and a lot of it,” he wrote in a letter to the Monitor. By his count, the group has at most 25 incarcerated members – not hundreds, as officials have said. When members leave prison, he said, they might maintain a loose association with others, but their actions are largely their own.
Though he returned to prison earlier this year on four stalking convictions and one of disobeying an officer, after last being released in late 2010, Trebian said he is not the inmate he once was. He has tasted freedom and felt it revoked time and again. The back and forth has worn on him, he said, adding that he intends to break the cycle upon his next release. (Trebian was scheduled for a parole hearing earlier this month but asked that it be delayed because he had recently been moved to a higher custody level following unspecified disciplinary violations.)
“It’s a younger guy’s game,” Trebian said. “I’m not that old, but I’m not that young, either. I’m more inclined to keep some focus on the future.”
Trebian considers himself a leader and said he felt a responsibility to show younger, newer inmates how to carry themselves, how to give and earn respect. That isn’t always easy, he said, especially now, given a wave of recent arrivals who seem to increasingly lack the sense or desire to follow pre-existing codes. Inmates who want to turn a quick buck and brag about their exploits.
“The s--t they say and the nonsense they pull, they don’t have their eyes open to the publicity,” Trebian said. “These kids who are in prison and who are hustling to make $100, $200 – not that much in the big picture – they’re going to end up getting smoked.
“The sad part is, some of these kids aren’t bad kids, but they’re getting bad direction and are going to spend the rest of their life in prison.”
The fault is not the inmates’ alone, Trebian said. He believes the prison fails to deliver on its responsibility to provide meaningful rehabilitation. Men are shepherded through rudimentary drug and alcohol treatment programs, he said, and later released with no effective tools in hand to curb their habits.
“They push you through so they can sign a piece of paper and meet their quota,” he said.
Trebian said prison and police officials are quick to inflate BOWW’s size and activity because it can be used to justify budget requests. Not every offense committed by suspected BOWW members is gang-related, he said. Given that nearly half of all men released from New Hampshire prisons later re-offend, according to official statistics, Trebian said it’s inevitable that “eventually you’re going to have a guy associated with BOWW do a crime.”
(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)