Tattoo Blog

Art that adorns the flesh…

We’re in the jailhouse now.

December 3rd, 2008 by

Some of the most heavily tattooed individuals that you can find anywhere reside in prison. As a matter of fact it seems that given the health dangers associated with jailhouse tattooing and the strict environment of prohibition in the most controlled situation a human being can find themselves in, it would be just the opposite. We all know it isn’t, tattooing actually flourishes in the gray bar hotel.

No matter how many crappy homemade tattoo machines are confiscated. Horrible ink concoctions , like Styrofoam cup ashes and rubbing alcohol, are poured down the drain, or inmate artists that are given more time on their sentence, and/or sent off to the “hole’. More and more tattoos show up emblazoned on the skin of fellow inmates.

Although I don’t agree with the barbaric conditions all of these tattoos are done in, nor some of the horrible work some wannabe’s do in there. There are still quite a few artists who do some damn fine art under less than favorable conditions. In my time I have seen, and prettied up by adding a bit of color, some very good tattoos that came out of prison, and I couldn’t help but wonder.

“Just how good would this guy be if he had the proper training, and the conditions to do the work right? Would it make a difference in his life on the outside to have a trade that could probably keep him out of future trouble?”

After all, isn’t that supposed to be the whole purpose of prison besides punishment? To give a few who could go out and make their way without crime a chance to do so? According to an article I found on a business site called Goliath, business knowledge on demand, it is. The article is called “Tattoo prohibition behind bars: the case for repeal”, and does make a clear point as to why tattoo prohibition in prison should be repealed.

Aside from the obvious fact that it would save skin and lives inside the big house by giving inmate artists access to the proper tools of the trade under supervised instruction. It could certainly keep more than a few ink starved inmates from causing too much trouble. After all, you can’t be out in the yard making mischief if your getting your new back piece worked on.

Now, I’m not fool enough to think that lifting the prohibition on tattooing is going to make all the criminals suddenly turn into model citizens. In fact I don’t think there really is such a thing as a model citizen. Everybody does a little dirt in their lives. I do however think that there are a few that if they were given a chance could turn their lives around, and I’d be willing to bet that more than a few jailhouse tattooers would gladly take an opportunity to learn a trade that could support them on the outside without the hassle of a criminal record thwarting their every chance at a good job.

The lifting of such an ignorant and obviously useless prohibition could also provide an opportunity for some extra bucks in a licensed tattoo artist’s pocket as well. With the lifting of the prohibition they would need a licensed tattooist to teach the jailhouse artist how to do it right. A few short hours every once in awhile could add up to some serious green, and could provide some very willing skin for an outside apprentice to work with. Just a few of the possibilities that come to mind at the moment.

Not all criminals deserve such a chance, I know. Many of them need to be right where they are, and quite a few of them who get a chance to get out will end up right back there. Some folk are born outlaws, but there are a handful that could make it, given a chance, and lifting the ban would offer a chance to them.

Prison has been rightly called a college for criminals. For the most part it turns a person who made a mistake into a career criminal, and makes a career criminal all the better at his profession. Lifting the ban on tattooing in prison could turn that around slightly by giving someone a chance to learn something other than crime.

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