Tattoo Taboo: Removing Prison and Gang Tats (For Free!)

Cornbread HustleLife After Incarceration, Second-Chance Hiring

Spectrum News 1 laser tattoo removal story | Cornbread Hustle

Recently, one of our Hustlers was featured in a news story about tattoo removal in Dallas.

We are excited to share this great reporting from Spectrum News 1, and we’re very grateful to Astanza Laser for its efforts to help remove unwanted ink for people coming out of incarceration!

It reminded us that even if you’re determined to get a fresh start after prison, a tattoo can hold you back.

Tattoos and You

In the past, tattoos were somewhat controversial in American society. Often associated with sailors and soldiers, tattoos were viewed with some disdain among high society. Visible tattoos could even be a problem for employment, though this generally isn’t the case any more, for the most part.

This is not the case for many gang and prison tattoos. 

If you’ve served time, you won’t be surprised to learn tattoos can sway a jury against you. Research shows jurors are less sympathetic to criminal trial defendants with tattoos, and possibly more likely to convict as a result.

Much of the general public will not readily identify a tattoo as showing gang affiliation or signifying something done while incarcerated. But tattoos with gang and prison symbols – especially those on the neck and face – can have a lasting impact, even if you’ve long since left incarceration or put your gang past behind you.

This is even more problematic if the tattoos include widely-recognized white supremacist symbols, like swastikas.

Your Ink Can Keep You From Getting Hired

Some tattoos can simply be covered with clothing, and won’t necessarily be a problem in public.

Others, especially those on the hands, neck, and face, can be a major barrier to employment after prison.

While most employers are OK with visible tattoos on employees, they may draw the line when it comes to ink on your face. This is especially true if the job involves dealing with customers or the general public, as is the case for most service and retail sector careers.

Any visible tattoo can get you blacklisted if it glorifies violence or drug use. That kind of message won’t be consistent with what an employer wants portrayed to the public.

Even jobs that don’t involve dealing with customers may not allow visible prison or gang tattoos. Such markings can make other employees uncomfortable, even if you assure everyone that you’ve put that part of your past behind you.

A Painful Reminder

Regardless of whether your tattoos are a problem for employment, they can have a lasting psychological effect, too.

Every time you see the tattoos embedded in your skin, whether looking in a mirror or seeing a photograph, you’re given a stark reminder of your troubled past.

For most people coming out of incarceration, that’s something they’d prefer to forget.

Free Tattoo Removal Help is Available

Here’s the good news: there are services to remove those unwanted tattoos, and in some cases, it won’t cost you a thing.

For one day every month, Astanza Laser in Dallas offers free tattoo removal for people who can’t afford it. You can learn more by calling 800-364-9010 or sending an email to

Outside of Dallas, you can apply for assistance with tattoo removal through Removery’s INK-nitiative program. Learn more here.