Rolling Out

Ex-Bloods gang member talks 26-year prison stint and L.A.’s recent gang truce

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Photo credit: A.R. Shaw for Steed Media

Mark Anthony Sutton became a leader of a gang as a teenager. During his youth in Pasadena, California, he co-founded a Bloods chapter with a friend who relocated from Los Angeles. Sutton, also known as Big Preach, soon became involved in selling drugs and eventually was sentenced to 38-years in prison after being convicted of murder.


Sutton served 26 years and returned to his community with a new state of mind. He currently works to steer youth away form gang life by helping them find jobs and encouraging them to pursue education.


Sutton recently sat down with rolling out to discuss how being a gang member altered his life, how he survived prison, and founding the Partnership Building Community Group.

How were you introduced to gangs?


I was 13 years old and became one of the founders of the second largest Bloods gang in California. I started it with a guy I met from Los Angeles. Someone murdered my little brother behind drugs and I retaliated against the people who murdered my little brother. I was put in prison with the sentence of 38 years to life for that crime. During my incarceration, I started the Partnership Building Community Group within the prison walls to give back. I now use my influence to defuse violence in my community and to help people get jobs in the city of Pasadena.

What was your experience of walking into prison for the first day and knowing that there were different gangs inside of the prison?

I was 21 years old and I didn’t have a clue what it was like. I was handed a pair of black gloves and a knife. I was told that I had to stab the first Mexican I saw because it was a war between the Blacks and Mexicans in the prison. So that was my introduction to prison. In addition, we were dealing with corrupt correctional officers who would do anything to harm us. Initially, going into prison was really scary being that young. You have to just sit back and observe and be ready to do what’s necessary to survive in an environment like that.

What was the best way to survive?

Initially, the best way to survive was to match what was brought to you. If violence was brought to you, you get back at them with violence. If someone got at you in a way that was respectful, then you deal with them respectfully. To survive in an environment like prison, you have to be willing to sit back and shut up and pay attention to what was going on around you. You followed any advice that was given to you, even if it was teaching you how to sharpen a knife. That’s what you do in prison.

How long were you in prison before you decided to create the Partnership Building Community Group organization?

I was in prison for about 17 years before I decided to create the organization. It was created because of what’s going on with my community. There were a lot of drive-by shootings, young people getting shot, and other things going on in my community that prompted me to use the influence to stop the violence.

What was the gang environment like once you got out of prison?

It was fragmented. There was a lot of internal violence in the gang culture, so Bloods were killing Bloods, Crips were killing Crips. There were a lot of internal things that didn’t happen when I was in the gang culture. We didn’t do drive-by shootings, so there were a lot of changes.

Did you have any feelings about how gang culture was being popularized by rappers?

My problem was with how rappers were using the gang culture to become financially successful, but weren’t giving back. So they weren’t finding a way to either help young guys who may have wanted to get out of the gangs, or opening up organizations that would help prepare them for jobs. So the neighborhood that they were promoting through their raps, they weren’t giving back to them. So that was my main concern about how they were profiting off the culture, but weren’t giving back to the culture that they were profiting from.

How can the recent gang peace treaty be maintained?

Well, my concern is what we are doing here with the United Hood Nation. The United Hood Nation is an important movement mainly because it’s bringing all the gangs closer and the communities together. By utilizing the resources we have access to, it’s going to give us the foundation to be able to get jobs within our own communities.

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