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Sheriff's Tattoo Removal Program Helps Offer Inmates a Clean Slate
Inmates in the custody of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department have the opportunity to participate in a tattoo removal program. Tattoos were once considered permanent, but are now possible to remove them using laser treatments. The tattoo program utilizes the latest technology in tattoo removal and it has been a great success.
The Sheriff's Department has implemented new programs such as Education Based Incarceration, the Community Transition Unit, and the Tattoo Clinic. The implementation of these programs is an attempt to reduce recidivism; the rate of inmates committing new crimes. It is the hope that through these programs the inmate's sense of worth will improve and opportunities for employment will increase after their release from custody.
The Tattoo Removal program started in February 2012 as a collaborative partnership between The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Medical Services Bureau and the Inmate Services Bureau. The program is overseen by trained medical personnel and initially began with 25 volunteer inmates. The program has grown and currently has treated 276 male inmates and 260 female inmates totaling 536.
There are many reasons why people change their mind about the tattoos they have. Inmates that were interviewed revealed that some received their first tattoo as young as eleven years old. The inmates that received the tattoos at a young age often regret the tattoos later in life. Negative stigma is another reason that inmates often want a tattoo removed. This stigma is compounded if the tattoo is offensive or is located in a prominent place on the body such as the face, neck, or hands. In addition, some of the tattoos are not done by professionals, leaving an unsightly image. Some tattoos are "gang" related and inmates no longer wanting to be associated with the gang or lifestyle opt to have the tattoos removed. No matter what the reason, the tattoo program gives these inmates a fresh start.
The Tattoo Removal Program also affects inmates outside the jail system. Many employers have policies or rules regarding tattoos, which would limit job opportunities for the inmate. Tattoos could make it more difficult for inmates to advance in a career or even make it difficult to obtain and keep a job in some fields. "Visible tattoos, especially those that are gang-related or profane, can negatively impact an inmate's ability to find employment after their release. An ex-inmate who can find a job is better able to reintegrate into the community, and less likely to end up back in jail. This program helps those inmates that have made the commitment to better themselves while in custody carry that commitment with them as they re-enter our communities," said Medical Services Bureau Captain Kuykendall.
The tattoo removal process uses a laser that produces a short pulse of intense light, which passes through the top layers of skin to be selectively absorbed by the tattoo pigment. This breaks down the tattoo ink, which is then absorbed by the body, and the tattoo fades. Most patients need between three to eight sessions to completely remove the tattoo. Treatment sessions are scheduled every eight weeks.
Many inmates have one or two of their tattoos lasered to see how good the results are. When they go back for follow-up treatments it is not uncommon for the inmates to request to have other tattoos treated as well because of the effectiveness of the laser removal.
At outside facilities, having a single tattoo removed can cost anywhere from $300 to $500 per treatment. With all the treatments necessary to completely remove a tattoo, this process ends up costing thousands of dollars. However, the cost of the Inmate Tattoo Removal Program is covered by the Inmate Welfare Fund and there are no additional costs to the Sheriff Department or to the public.
The Tattoo Removal Program helps give inmates a positive change and has had overwhelming positive feedback from the participants. The tattoo clinic, along with education and vocational training, are part of the Sheriff Department's programs to help inmates secure employment, and reduce the likelihood that they will commit more crimes in the future.
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