Seeing a fully tattooed person in a shady neighborhood can create all kinds of negative assumptions. Many of our members find the first step in leaving old life is recognizing that tattoos are unwelcome in the workplace.
It is a painful procedure that can take more than a year to remove if the tattoo is a large cover-up, or if it’s in color. Most importantly, the process is symbolic. “It’s like a rebirthing. People can’t keep them if they want to move forward with their lives.”
“The biggest thing is betrayal, and that’s kind of a word not spoken. Some of these men feel as though they’re betraying their old way of life by coming in. And I think that that often undergirds the friction: ‘Well, don’t disrespect my homies, don’t disrespect where I came from.’ And internally, there’s a sense of betrayal when they wipe out a tattoo: ‘Am I giving up that old life or part of my history?’ I’ve had people say to me, ‘In my heart, I’ll always be part of my old neighborhood.’ It’s understandable. You struggle to go beyond it—these men, it’s their history. They want to let go of it, but they also feel as though they’re betraying it if they do, selling out the old person.”