INK-nitiative

Removery’s Ink-nitiative offers free tattoo removal services to qualified applicants

Removery, the nation’s largest commercial provider of tattoo removal services, gives back to the community through its Ink-nitiative program.

Launched on National Tattoo Removal Day – August 14 of last year – the program provides free tattoo removal procedures to qualified applicants with tattoos on their hands, neck or face.

It started out with previously incarcerated individuals. “It’s hard to get a job when you have tattoos like teardrops,” says Phil Marandola, Removery’s channel manager. “We wanted to help people in reentry but have moved past that to also work with former gang members, victims of human trafficking and victims of domestic abuse. Hate tattoos have been on our radar lately. We’ve been removing swastikas and been seeing a lot more of them in the past year.”

Removery’s goal is that for every one of its paying clients who completes their tattoo removal, it will provide a free tattoo removal service to someone who qualifies.

How it works

Those interested fill out a form on the company’s website that includes personal details, and a description of the tattoo, along with a photo and a paragraph or two on how the removal will help them. They must also choose an advocate who can support them in their tattoo removal effort. This includes making sure that the applicant will make it to their appointments and be committed to the process. An advocate can be a social worker, nonprofit organization staff member, therapist, counselor, parole agent or halfway house representative. They must write a letter in support of the applicant as part of the application process.

Ink-nitiative began at The Finery, which, along with Eraser Clinics, Invisible Ink and Precision Laser Tattoo Removal, is now under the Removery brand, as part of a four-company merger. Removery currently includes 40 locations in the U.S. and Canada and just opened its first shop in Melbourne, Australia. And it’s rapidly expanding.

“We’re opening up 200 locations in the next several years,” says Marandola. The company plans expansion across the U.S., in Canada and in Australia.

He says they’re looking for 10 active Ink-nitiative participants in each of the company’s locations on an ongoing basis. About 50 percent of the people who apply are accepted. If they don’t qualify, because their tattoos aren’t visible or they don’t have an advocate, Removery may offer them a discount.

In the past year, Removery has enrolled 50 people in Ink-nitiative. Since its beginning at The Finery, the company has removed tattoos free of charge from about 250 people.

Plans pre-release tattoo removal program

Before Covid-19 hit, Removery was negotiating with the Massachusetts prison system to do pre-release tattoo removals.

“A big part of what we’re going to do in the future is to do the removals inside the prisons. We did research and went into the prisons,” says Marandola.

“We’d gotten up to a state-level approval, and I’d talked to the state warden. They were going to pilot it in one prison and bring people in from around the state. We could treat 50 people in a day.” Although it would initially be a pilot program, Marandola says he expects that the prisons would eventually pay them to provide the service.

Having a pre-release program makes it easier for people to make appointments and have all or most of their tattoos removed before their release, giving them a head start after they get out of jail or prison.

Once the threat of Covid-19 subsides, Removery plans to continue to develop its pre-release tattoo-removal program in Massachusetts. And then it will move on to other places as well, eventually operating in all 50 states and Canada.

Editor’s note: Jails to Jobs has written a how-to guide for those who might be interested in starting their own free or low-cost tattoo removal program.