In a recently published personal essay, Dennis Mintun — a 56-year-old, inmate at the Idaho State Correctional Institution in Boise, Idaho — talked about how he became the head of the penitentiary’s gay prison gang. The gang is a group of queer inmates known as the “Rainbow Warriors” and they prevent neo-Nazi inmates from beating up gay men and trans women during their initiations.
Mintun, a gay man who is serving a 45-year sentence for three counts of sexual abuse of a child under 16, says that his prison has a neo-Nazi gang called the Aryan Knights. To become a member of the Aryan Knights, new members have to beat up gay men or child molesters (called “chomos” in prison slang).
Smaller, weaker gay men and trans women tried to become Mintun’s “boyfriend” for protection. (Mintun weighs 310 pounds, most of it muscle, he says.) Feeling used yet craving real romantic companionship, Mintun began turning these “boyfriends” away, saying that their protection wasn’t his problem.
Then, he fell in love with a “adorable, “affectionate” young man named Peter who’d been accused (but not convicted) of child molestation. The other inmates considered him a chomo and threatened to beat him up if he didn’t hand over cash to use at the prison commissary.
Peter claimed that he had genuine feelings for Mintun, but Mintun wasn’t sure whether to trust him. Once, while walking out to the prison recreation yard, Mintun saw several “gang bangers” asking Peter to come and talk to them in the bathroom. Peter asked Mintun to come with him. Mintun didn’t.
Later, Mintun learned that the men had beaten Peter until he fell and cracked his head, killing him almost instantly.
“I could have prevented it,” he continues, “I could have either gone with him, or taken him by the hand and insisted that he stay with us…. I just kept dwelling on the vision of that beautiful small boy lying dead — all because it had not been ‘my problem.'”
Mintun pledged never to let something like that happen again. “With the help of two friends,” he writes, “I began to gather many of the gay and transgender inmates in a gang of our own” with the goal of protecting other gay men and sex offenders from being beaten up by initiates into the Aryan Knights.
“After a few of their initiations went south, they began jokingly calling us the ‘Rainbow Warriors,'” Mintun writes. He is now the head of the gay prison gang, stating, “When one person is persecuted or abused, and there is something I can do about it, especially if that person is my gay or trans brother or sister, it is my problem.”
According to a 2015 study on LGBTQ prisoners, LGBTQ prisoners are assaulted four times more often than other prisoners.