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Erasing the Past: Tattoo-Removal Programs for Former Gang Members

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 77 Issue: 8 Dated: August 2008 Pages: 13-18
Bakir Poljac M.S.; Tod Burke Ph.D.
Date Published
August 2008
6 pages
This article discusses programs for tattoo removal for former gang members.
The article provides a brief overview on gangs, the perceived benefits to individuals for joining them, reasons for leaving gangs, the use of tattoos by members, and how these assist law enforcement. Tattoo art is cited as a connection for former gang members to their criminal past, creating an obstructive stigma in society. Members leaving an organization have had the assistance available of tattoo-removal in some area programs since the early 1990s. Programs have consisted of those privately run and those sponsored in part by local governments, and former gang members can have an unlimited number removed in exchange for performing community service. The article discusses the qualifications for receiving treatment, the tattoo removal process, mechanisms for funding, and the effectiveness of the programs in anecdotal form. Additionally, reaction to this program is noted, providing opinions in support and in criticism. The chief concern mentioned is the use of the programs by those wishing to conceal active gang affiliation or illegal activity and the impact on law enforcement’s ability to identify these individuals through tattoos. The primary purpose stated for the support of the program is the enabling of former criminals to break with their past and become productive members of society. 21 notes