Although illegal, the practise of tattooing in prison is rampant amongst inmates, particularly those with ties to gang culture. Mechanical pencils, magnets, radio transistors, staples, paper clips and even guitar strings are some of the implements used within a prison environment to carry out the process of tattooing.
Common Prison Tattoos and their meanings:
Although there are several variants of dot tattoos, each representing different aspects of prison life, the most rampant example of these would be the three dot tattoo. These dots are a widespread affiliate for Mexican gang members, and is a sign of “mi vida loca”, or “my crazy life”. They are usually found on the hand or face, and are carried out using the rudimentary practise of “stick-and-poke” tattooing.
Cobweb tattoos are a representation of a long term in prison. These tattoos are symbolic of a spider catching its prey, just like the prisoners have been captured and locked away. They can usually be found on the elbows of inmates, as the positioning is reflective of the prisoners sitting with their elbows on tables all day, giving the “spider” a chance to form its web on them.
Five Point Crown:
The five point crown is a symbol of the “Latin Kings” gang, which is one of the biggest Hispanic gangs in America, which is based out of Chicago. The five points of the crown represent the gangs connection to the “People Nation” gang, which is represented by the number five. Unlike most prison tattoos, these tattoos are often customisable, with the use of different coloured jewels in the spires, which can have many different meanings and connotations.
All Cops Are B*****ds:
Evil, Wicked, Mean, Nasty:
Another acronym tattoo commonly found on the knuckles of prisoners, EWMN was popularised in the 1955 film “The Night of the Hunter” by Robert Mitchum. Due to its ties to the film and pop culture amongst prisoners, this tattoo is not associated with any gangs inside or outside of prison, but remains a popular choice of tattoo for inmates.
Similar to the cobweb tattoo, the clock face tattoo is representative of the time spent incarcerated. Instead of a specific time on the clocks (as is usually found on clock tattoos representing a significant life event), the clocks on prison tattoos are usually handless, with no inclination to time passing or a certain time, which represents the mundane nature of serving a long sentence.