Healing Former Inmates and Gang Members through Tattoo Removal

Tattoo Removal

Many people understand it's tough to start a new life after serving time in prison. For example, a prison record can make finding employment difficult. Also, some apartments and landlords will make it difficult for former convicts to find a new home. However, there is an additional problem many people overlook. It's tattoos received in prison. Thankfully, one organization in California is helping former inmates tackle this difficult problem.

Homeboy Industries is a gang intervention program based in Los Angeles, California. Started in the late 1980s by a Jesuit priest named Rev. Greg Boyle, Homeboy Industries is said to operate the world's largest gang tattoo removal operation. Distraught over the number of deaths from gang violence in the 1980s, Father Boyle networked with a doctor willing to donate an hour of his time a week to help remove gang tattoos. After word of the service spread, almost 3,000 people were signed up to get their gang tattoos removed.

Today, Homeboy Industries is able to meet the large demand for gang tattoo removal. Operating from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, three laser machines and over 40 volunteer doctors help remove the criminalizing images from the skins of former inmates. The process of getting a tattoo removed isn't particularly pleasant. Recipients of the procedure state it feels a lot like a rubber band being snapped on their skin over and over. However, the discomfort is worth it for many former gang members. One former gang member, Alex Carpio, has already had over 45 laser treatments to remove a gang tattoo located on his abdomen.

The volunteers at Homeboy Industries stress that the true healing that goes on isn't just skin deep. People come to Homeboy Industries truly hoping to move on from a violent and terrifying life. Removing the gang related tattoos from the bodies of former inmates helps people reenter society without the burden of shame and harassment. Also, the removal of the tattoos act as a type of baptism that allows former gang members to feel whole again.

Truly, the citizens in Los Angeles, California know how to serve their fellow men. It's inspiring to learn of the dedication of these volunteers at Homebody Industries and the lives they are helping. What your thoughts about this service in California? Do you think that Homeboy Industries should offer satellite services in other major cities? Let us know your thoughts below!