Remove those tattoos, and your chances of finding a job will be dramatically increased. In fact, Father Boyle, who founded Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, said the greatest impediment that those with tattoos face in their job search is the very tattoos themselves.
Just think about it from an employer’s perspective. Whether they’re gang related or just decorative, visible tattoos may make coworkers feel uncomfortable, scare off customers or give an impression of unprofessionalism.
Laser tattoo removal will drastically reduce job discrimination and casual interest by police and can also help prevent random violence. In addition, it will increase your self-esteem and be part of the life changes you want to make.
Research for a 2011 report published by Project New Start, an Oakland, Calif.-based program for at-risk youth who want to have their tattoos removed, found they wanted to do so for the following reasons:
- To make a positive change or a new start
- To avoid violence or to become an ex–gang member
- For professional reasons (e.g. to get a job)
- To remove the mistake
- The desire to be a role model
Many studies have found that many people who got tattoos were sorry later. Don’t be sorry about that tattoo. Do something about it.
These days, tattoos are removed by lasers, which break down the pigment so it’s absorbed by the skin. The process may take several sessions, and like getting the tattoo itself, can be a bit painful. Removal can also be expensive, but many organizations and local governments offer free tattoo removal for ex-gang members, ex-offenders and others. Many of these, however, are specifically for youth in their teens or 20s, and at the time of this writing, most of the ones we know about are in California.
Tattoo removal programs
Perhaps the largest of the tattoo removal services is Homeboy Industries in L.A. A team of 30 volunteer doctors performs an average of 745 tattoo removal treatments each month in its tattoo removal clinic. Those with gang-related tattoos that cannot be covered up get priority at Homeboy. For others, there’s a three-month to one-year waiting period, but the process is done free of charge. http://www.homeboyindustries.org/what-we-do/tattoo-removal
Some other examples:
The Mayor’s Gang Prevention Initiativein Fresno, Calif. removes “visible symbols associated with gang affiliation” free of charge. Those getting their tattoos removed must live in the city of Fresno, have a direct gang affiliation, be enrolled in the MGPI and perform 20 hours of community service. https://www.fresno.gov/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/FINALTRP-Pushcard-english-spanish12-10-13.pdf
The Providence Holy Cross Medical Center Tattoo Removal Program, in Mission Hills, Calif., is geared toward residents of the Los Angeles areas of San Fernando and greater Santa Clarita valleys who want to have visible gang-related or anti-social tattoos removed. In return, those who have their tattoos removed must do community service or attend school. https://www.providence.org/treatments/Tattoo-Removal?scref=globalsearch
Washington Hospital’s New Beginnings in Fremont, Calif., caters to those 25 years or older, who have visible tattoos. Those taking advantage of the service must be in school, have a job or be in a job-training program and need to perform 25 hours of community service. There is a one-time fee based on the number and size of tattoos. Another program, New Start, for those under 25, is free. It requires 50 hours of community service, however. https://www.whhs.com/About/Community-Connection/Tattoo-Removal-Program.aspx
M.A.C. (Make a Change) in Manassas, Va., is part of the Prince William Area Gang Response Intervention Team, and a program aimed at residents of Loudon County, Va. who are under 29. In order to participate, they must commit to cutting off association with gangs for six months and do 50 hours of community service before receiving their first treatment; and be in school, employed or actively looking for work. The treatment is free for those under 21 years of age and has a $20 copay for those over 21. http://www.preventgangsnova.org/TattooRemovalFlyer.pdf
2ndChance Grace in Meridian, Idaho, is a nonprofit created by an ex-offender that works with youth and young adults to help them “find hope.” Participants in its tattoo-removal program who are under 18 must be in school or enrolled in a job readiness or vocational program and complete 35 hours of community service. They must pay an average of $20 per treatment, although treatments are free for qualified individuals. Those over age 18 must complete 25 hours of community service. The average cost per treatment is $40 for each tattoo. http://www.2ndchancegrace.org
Dallas Tattoo Removal Clinic in Dallas, Texas, removes tattoos for free for those under 17, and prices start at $50 per treatment for those who are older than that. It also offers a mobile clinic at three locations – Waco, Tyler and Abilene – once a month. http://www.dallastattooremovalclinic.biz
If you don’t live in any of these areas and would like to search for the nearest tattoo removal program, good terms to search with include gang prevention tattoo removal program (in name of city) or just tattoo removal program (in name of city).
You can also check with your local mayor’s office, police department or parole or probation department.
Jails to Jobs is planning to create a directory of tattoo-removal programs throughout the U.S. that you will be able to find at our website in the coming months, so keep a lookout for it.