The appeal of tattoos in jail is easy to understand: in a place where all freedoms are confiscated, marking one’s own skin is the one thing that cannot be taken away. Jailbirds risk cross-contamination to have their mark of individuality in an environment that is designed to dehumanize. As you would image the lack of sterilising facilities make cross-contaimination extremely high.
Tattoos in jail take on a very significant meaning with most being territorial and culturally defined within specific nationalities. These rough and undefined tattoos are made with rudimentary homemade machines which sometime use just needles and ink. Ink is often made from urine or shampoo mixed with soot. The poor equipment and lack of coloured ink hinders the quality of the work a tattooist can perform.
Prison Tattoo Meanings
Laden with meaning, jail tattoos tell a story with visual symbols. The teardrop is a classic example for this. Originally, a teardrop near the eye was a counter for the people the wearer had killed. Now, it has also come to signify the number of lost loved ones or the number of terms in prison the wearer bears.
Another tattoo people serving time get is tattoo of a spiderweb on an elbow or a neck. It comes from the notion that a spider web catches and imprisons its prey.
Barbed wire tattooed across the forehead signifies a sentence of life imprisonment without possibility of parole.
A career thief will often have tattoo of a cat. A single cat means the bearer worked alone; several cats mean the bearer was part of a gang.
Not surprisingly prisons are the place where most hate tattoos are inked. as many convicts entering the prison population are affiliated with the hate or racist movement before their incarceration. In prison, new convicts from different ethnic backgrounds often join racist gangs once inside . Many of them do this for protection, not just because they adhere to the gang’s racist ideology.
Popular hate tattoos include:
- The Celtic Cross: It is part of the racist white power movement.
- The Swastika Symbol of the Nazi party.
- The SS: two sig runes were the symbol of the Schutzstaffel, Nazi insignia.
Recently, prisoners have become very creative with where and how they tattoo themselves. The producers of the prison documentary television show, Lock Up, were stunned when they several inmates who had tattooed the whites of their eyes.
“Everybodys got tattoos. Eveybodys got stretched ears, but you never see anybody with the whites of their eyes tatooed”
Ink to paper is thoughtful
Ink to flesh, hard-core.
If Shakespeare were a tattooist
We’d appreciate body art more.
To tattoo or not to tattoo – that is the question millions of people answered positively. For them getting a tattoo is a way to express themselves, a way to tell the world their personal story. Remember the words of Jack London – “Show me a man with a tattoo and I’ll show you a man with an interesting past”?
Today, tattoo art explores a new part of human body, where tattoo artists could pour out all the creativity. That is the human eyeball. Yes, it sounds scary and bizarre to the highest degree. But have tattoo owners been ever afraid of pain or public denunciation?
The truth is that eyeball tattooing has, actually, two fields of application – medicine and body modification. The first one refers to situations when patients with damaged eyes undergo clinical eyeball tattoo to restore, at least partially, the cosmetic appearance of an eye. Several medical conditions can be treated as direct indications for performing eyeball tattooing. In most cases, this procedure is performed for cosmetic reasons just to mask the damage or trauma of the eye. Medical indications for cosmetic eyeball tattooing include:
- Corneal opacities (this is a condition, when eye cornea gets scarred and loses its transparency, which results in a complete or partial loss of sight);
- Eye damages, resulting from leucoma, keratitis, or cataracts;
- Physical trauma of an eye during a car accident, etc.
However, there are also indications to perform eyeball tattoo, when the procedure can help to improve or restore sight. Some doctors practice this method to help patients with albinism (no color pigment in skin and eyes), keratoconus (impaired shape of an eye cornea), aniridia (absence of the iris in the eyes), coloboma (a hole in one of the eye’s structures), and iridodialysis (separation of the iris).
Body modification is another field, where eyeball tattoo is practiced. Being a relatively novel type of body modification techniques, eyeball tattoo is used as part of extreme experimenting with altering a human body. In 2007 the community of body modification fans was thrilled with the experience of a Canadian man, who had his white eyeballs turned blue as the result of eyeball tattooing. There are also reports of two prisoners, who also gave their votes to eyeball tattoo as their own method to single out from the crowd.
BMEzine, a reputable online magazine of body medication community, published an article, describing the process of eyeball tattoo on a healthy eye. Though, they did warn all the readers on the potential risks of such procedure. Reading comments to the article, it becomes obvious that even for the most advanced body modifiers eyeball tattooing still remains a hardcore experience. By the way, Pauly Unstoppable, one of the pioneers of eyeball tattooing, again has his eyeballs white, based on the photos dated 2010… Did the blue pigment faded away over time or did the man have another eyeball tattoo, this time returning to a natural eyeball color, – this remains unknown…