Former Latin Kings Leader Tells Her Story



From her desk in her small, sunlit apartment, Beatrice Codianni broke a national news story this summer about the women’s federal prison in Danbury.
Codianni’s story, posted on her national criminal justice website, Reentry Central, revealed that the women’s facility was being turned over to house male prisoners, and that the Bureau of Prisons planned to move the women inmates across the country, far from their families.
The story was picked up by the national media and created a firestorm, with senators pushing to stop or at least suspend the plan.
Codianni, a small, matronly woman, isn’t an editor or a lawyer. But she does know a lot about prisons. She was incarcerated for 15 years at the federal prison in Danbury because of her involvement as a leader of the notorious Latin Kings gang that terrorized New Haven with drug dealing and shootings in the 1990s.
At 65, she has found her calling writing news stories about criminal justice reforms and the barriers facing ex-offenders, quietly shedding light on what happens beyond the barbed wire.
It is hard to square her gang-leader reputation with the Codianni of today. She comes across as warm, friendly, an earth mother-type, with her wire-rimmed glasses, a pronounced limp and a rescue dog named Rocky.
Not that she ever really looked like a tattooed gangbanger. Codianni joined the Latin Kings when she was in her 40s. A white mother of three in a gang of mostly young Latino men, she had a den-mother quality to her.
In many ways, the plot line of her life sounds like an HBO series
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