Getting out of a gang isn’t easy. There are social pressures, economic/financial pressures, and there is a risk of getting beat up or killed for walking away from the wrong gang. Getting a tattoo is often a part of gang initiation, and for a variety of reasons, these tattoos are typically not concealed. Gang tattoos are used for intimidation, to show group membership, and also to make it harder to leave once a person has joined. Having visible tattoos that show gang membership makes it especially difficult for gang members to leave and find a job. Unfortunately, finding a viable job is usually the key to starting a new life. This is sad considering many of the people who get gang tattoos are teenagers. Removing visible tattoos, especially those that are antisocial or related to gangs, will improve the chances of finding employment and moving on.
Luckily, there are philanthropic organizations out there who want to help. They understand the stigma of having a gang tattoo, and that having these tattoos on your hands, neck, or head can be the kiss of death in the job hunt. So these organizations offer free or discounted tattoo removals for former gang members who want to change. In addition to helping former gang members find jobs, getting tattoos removed can also help parents form better relationships with their children. It can be hard for a child whose father's face is covered in gang tattoos. They might not want their friends to meet their parents, and they might not want to be picked up from school by a parent covered in gang tattoos.
One of the organizations that offers tattoo removal services to former gang members is Homeboy Industries. They are dedicated to helping people remove gang tattoos. A group of 35 volunteer doctors split up into four teams, and those four teams average 950 clients per month. Homeboy Industries provides more than just tattoo removal, they also offer educational programs and employment programs to help their clients get on their feet and away from gangs. They found that most of their younger clients have not actually dropped out of school; instead, many were “pushed out” by the local district because of their tattoos. These younger clients receive high priority treatment, but all age groups are encouraged to apply. Homeboy Industries is headquartered in Los Angeles.
Another organization that assists with tattoo removal is Clean Slate. They serve more than just former gang members, and put in effort to make sure nobody is excluded. They believe former felons and people who have suffered domestic abuse also deserve to be helped. It can allow them to escape the cycle that prevents them from succeeding and living a better life. Clean Slate does not remove tattoos for free, but they do offer very generous discounts. Clean Slate offers their services in cities all across the US, but you have to go through an application process on their website to enroll in their program to receive the discount on the tattoo removal.
Now that the technology exists and medical professionals understand they have the power to positively serve and impact society, these programs are becoming more common. This is just the beginning. Even county governments are getting behind the idea of free and discounted tattoo removal. They understand that it helps sever gang ties, and it helps the children of parents with gang tattoos who are ashamed to involve them in their social lives. A fresh start is hard, but with a little support, positive change is within reach. To find out more, check out the links below.