Redemption Ink partners with Jails to Jobs to get more tattoo shops involved with tattoo removal


Redemption Ink

Dave Cutlip of Redemption Ink creates a cover-up tattoo.

Southside Tattoo of Baltimore launched Redemption Ink, a free tattoo cover-up program for hate and gang-related tattoos, in January. And it’s working with Jails to Jobs to refer potential clients in other parts of the country to free or low-cost tattoo removal programs.

Already they’ve done 22 cover-ups – not a small task considering each session can take four or five hours – and created a sister shop program to recruit other tattoo shops to do free tattoo cover-ups or removals.

It all began in a rather serendipitous way. A man, who was waiting for a pizza at the restaurant next door, dropped in to ask if they could cover up his Black Guerilla Family, a prison gang, tattoo. Because it was too big, shop owner and tattoo artist Dave Cutlip said he couldn’t do it.

But after the guy left, Dave’s wife said that maybe they could do it for other people and put a notice on Facebook that they would cover up hate and gang-related tattoos for free. And it went viral. 22 Words picked up the story, and it’s been viewed more than 29 million times.

That was in January and that’s when the emails from the media and potential clients started pouring in. Redemption Ink has gotten fan mail from as far away as New Zealand and a request for a procedure from someone in Nepal. They’ve been on Good Morning America and Japanese television, among other media appearances.

Redemption Ink has had thousands of requests for free cover-ups

As for clients, “We have thousands of requests but have approved hundreds. If we were just doing cover-ups it would take us the rest of our lives,” says Dave Ente, who handles requests and media for Redemption Ink.

There are certain criteria in order for a tattoo to be eligible for a free cover-up. If it’s gang-related, it has to be a tattoo for an actual gang, and they have resources to check if it is. Racist tattoos have to be determined to be truly racist rather than portraying southern heritage. A heart with a Confederate flag and the words “White Power” would count. The same tattoo design that says “Dixie Girl” wouldn’t.

Applicants are also asked to tell the story of their tattoo and why they decided to get it, as well as how it has affected their daily lives and ability to move forward.

Since requests have come in from all over the country – all over the world in fact – Redemption Ink has created a sister shop program and encourages other shops to get involved.  Those interested can apply on Redemption Ink’s website, and so far it has chosen six shops, including one in Greece. One requirement is that the shop must have business insurance.

All applications from potential clients for these sister shops are sent to Redemption Ink to be screened by Ente. Once a shop is approved, people can be referred to it, if they live nearby.

Jails to Jobs helps find free or low-cost tattoo removal programs for Redemption Ink clients

To help applicants in other areas of the country, Ente has turned to Jails to Jobs.

“Jails to Jobs is delighted to work with Redemption Ink. It is welcome to use the national directory of free and low-cost tattoo removal programs on our website and has been contacting us for referrals,” says Mark Drevno, Jails to Jobs’ founder and executive director.

In fact, Ente recently contacted Jails to Jobs about an application from a person with a full-back tattoo. He described it as skinheads raising the Nazi flag in a similar fashion to the iconic American photo of the Flag Over Iwo Jima.

“Besides not having a sister shop in the area, some tattoos are too big for cover-up. In this case, we were able to refer Ente to a program we featured in a recent blog article,” says Drevno.

“To further our mission, we’ve offered Redemption Ink an open invitation to contact us at any time with tattoo removal cases for anti-social, hate, racist or gang-related tattoos, when there is no existing local tattoo removal program listed in our national directory.”

Jails to Jobs looks at this as an opportunity to expand the circle of compassion and support, and recruit new providers to help create new free or low-cost tattoo removal programs in areas where there is a need and none exist.

In addition to potential individual client referrals, Jails to Jobs plans to refer tattoo artists who might want to be a Redemption Ink sister shop.

“Once these shops are onboard as a Redemption sister shop, if they’d like to do tattoo removal, we can advise them on steps to take and offer a copy of the book we’ve written: Tattoo Removal: Establishing a Free or Low-Cost Community-Based Program: A How-to Guide,” says Drevno.

“We look at tattoo shops as natural places to also perform tattoo removal procedures. The community service offering of free or low-cost tattoo removal could be supported through business generated at market or discounted rates by regular paying customers that want other types of tattoos removed.”

“Assuming overhead costs are being met by the tattoo side of the business, the money generated by the new tattoo removal side should be incremental, less the associated costs of the laser device and sessions. On top of that, using a laser to remove tattoos rather than covering them up saves the shop a tremendous amount of time that can be used for additional charity or billable work.”

What’s next for Southside Tattoo and Redemption Ink?

The shop has decided to add tattoo removal procedures to its repertoire. It recently went to Colorado to meet with Quanta Aesthetic Lasers about purchasing a tattoo removal laser device.

“We need a medical director, and the laser has to be fired by an RN or physician’s assistant. We have a medical director already, and we’re working on some RNs,” says Ente.

Redemption Ink also wants to encourage its sister shops to do tattoo removals. While cover-ups are done for free by all, Redemption Ink would like to pay tattoo shops to do removals. Elizabeth Cutlip, Southside Tattoo owner Dave Cutlip’s wife, has launched a gofundme campaign to be able to do this. So far the campaign has raised more than $20,000 of its $60,000 goal.

Whether shops offer tattoo cover-ups or tattoo removals, it’s all about helping to create new beginnings.

“We’re trying to help people move on with their lives. People who have made the choice to not be that way anymore now that they’ve gotten out of jail or gotten out of the gang and are having a hard time finding a job,” says Ente. “We’re able to help them be contributing members of society by dealing with their gang related or hate tattoos. And we’re succeeding one tattoo at a time.”

In addition, Ente says that they’re always looking for more volunteers to be added to their sister shop program and are happy to take on more cases for those who need it.


National Gang Center Newsletter focuses on gang tattoos

National Gang CenterThe summer issue of the National Gang Center Newsletter provides a basic education on gang tattoos – their importance to members, their meaning and symbolism, and where they can be found on a member’s body.

And it also mentions the Jails to Jobs’ free and low-cost tattoo removal program directory on our website for those former gang members who want their tattoos taken off.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), the National Gang Center provides gang-related information and resources to state, local and tribal jurisdictions.

Gang tattoo tutorial

Although tattoos have been around for thousands of years and have been symbols of everything from religion to punishment, few provide the significance or stigma of gang tattoos, according to the article.

It then goes to explain the meaning of various elements of gang tattoos. For example, Chicago’s Vice Lords sport 312, their local area code. And many Hispanic gangs use the number 13, in reference to M, the 13th letter of the alphabet, signifying the Mexican Mafia.

Whether on the face, hands, neck or other body part, where tattoos are located can be important to some gangs.

The article includes photos of the tattoos common among major gangs, including the Crips, the Bloods, the Surenos and MS-13.

It also describes types of tattoos that are used by both gang members and non-gang members alike. One of these, the spider web, can signify that the wearer has served time and is trapped in the criminal justice system web.

Three black dots may either symbolize the holy trinity or a hospital, cemetery or prison, the three destinations gang members are likely to end up.

How to find a free or low-cost tattoo removal program

The article concludes with a box explaining that gang tattoos can make it difficult to find a job, because employers are reluctant to hire those who have them. It also states that: “Although there has been a general proliferation of tattoo-removal services, locating gang-tattoo-removal programs is a continuing challenge for many communities.”

The box then highlights the fact that our tattoo removal program directory includes those that offer gang (and anti-social) tattoo removal and that the directory has more than 220 programs in 40 states.

If any readers know of any free or low-cost tattoo removal programs that aren’t included in our directory, please let us know, and we’ll add them.


New Skin launches campaign to remove tattoos in 10 cities

IMG_0453San Jose, Calif.-based New Skin Tattoo Removal has created a 10 Cities 10 Days 1,000 Second Chances campaign in which it plans to remove 100 tattoos in each of 10 California cities in 10 days free of charge.

The organization began to raise money for the effort early this month on Gofundme in a fundraising campaign that will continue until the end of the year, with a target goal of $30,000.

New Skin currently operates programs in San Jose, where it’s headquartered, and San Pablo, Calif., where it works with that San Francisco Bay Area suburb on its Removing Barriers tattoo removal program.

‘This idea (to branch out) came a few years ago when we first started out and noticed a lot of people came from places like Fresno, Salinas and Bakersfield because there are no services out there,” says Adam King, New Skin’s CEO. “There are tons of programs for youth but nothing for adults. There’s also a high percentage of people who are trying to change their lives, and we want to help them.”

Once funding for 10 Cities 10 Days 1,000 Second Chances is secured, hopefully by the end of the year, King plans to spend next March covering the state of California, from north to south, spending a day each in Oakland, San Francisco, Sacramento, Salinas, Fresno, Bakersfield, Santa Maria, San Bernardino and Long Beach and ending in San Diego.

He will contact churches in each of those cities to serve as the locations for the program and is already reaching out to government officials, especially in parks and rec departments, in the various cities to let them know his plans. Once the funding comes through the various agencies will publicize the event to drum up clients. In San Jose, King works with organizations that include Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army and also hopes to do the same in the 10 cities they will visit.

The organization will use a donated RV, which has already been secured, and a staff of volunteer medical professionals who will do the procedures using portable tattoo removal laser devices. They will spend one day in each city, and all procedures will be done free of charge.

King also plans to take along a video team to document the trip. They will not only film the 10-city campaign but will also do follow up with some of the people who have their tattoos removed to see how it affected their lives. “We’ll go back to individuals’ homes and follow them to get a more in in-depth portrait of how people feel,” King says.

Once the locations are secured, New Skin volunteers will follow up with clients each month to continue the tattoo removal process. Monarch Lasers, its laser device rental company, can provide the equipment and a team for Southern California and New Skin will take care of Northern California, according to King.

“This will also be a test to see which city has the highest demand for this service so we can decide if it’s worth continuing,” he says.

And that’s the ultimate goal of the campaign – for New Skin to open programs like it has in San Jose and San Pablo in as many of the 10 cities it will visit as possible.

“It will, however, be a slow process and take a long time,” said King. “We’ll build up one program for six months and then move on to the next.”

It may take time, but thanks to a shortage of free and low-cost tattoo removal programs in California and throughout the nation, if all goes well New Skin will be instrumental in providing a much-needed service to those who need it most.


New NYU survey finds adverse physical reactions to tattoos

tattoo-376821_1280While most people who come to our website already have tattoos and want to get them taken off, we’ve just discovered one more reason why you may not want to get a tattoo in the first place.

And that’s long-term medical risks.

In a survey released last week which may be the first of its kind, researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center discovered that as many as 6 percent of New Yorkers who get tattooed suffer some form of tattoo-related rash, severe itching or swelling that lasted longer than four months and in certain cases for years.

The survey involved interviews with about 300 adults in New York’s Central Park in June 2013 and confirms what European researchers have also discovered in monitoring medical complications related to tattoos – that they can cause adverse dermatological reactions.

Survey respondents ranged in age from 18 to 69, with the majority having no more than five tattoos.

“We were rather alarmed at the high rate of reported chronic complications tied to getting a tattoo,” says Marie Leger, MD, PhD, senior study investigator and assistant professor in NYU Langone’s Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology, whose team’s latest findings appeared in the journal Contact Dermatitis online May 27.

Leger cites the lack of regulatory oversight as an underlying weakness in measuring the true scope of the complications tied to tattooing, noting that the chemical composition of colored inks used in the process is poorly understood and not standardized among dye manufacturers.

“It is not yet known if the reactions being observed are due to chemicals in the ink itself or to other chemicals, such as preservatives or brighteners, added to them, or to the chemicals’ breakdown over time,” says Leger. “The lack of a national database or reporting requirements also hinders reliable monitoring.”

“The skin is a highly immune-sensitive organ, and the long-term consequences of repeatedly testing the body’s immune system with injected dyes and colored inks are poorly understood. Some of the reactions appear to be an immune response, yet we do not know who is most likely to have an immune reaction to a tattoo.”

Most long-lasting complications occurred in skin regions injected with the two most common tattoo ink colors, red and black. Almost half (44 percent) of chronic reactions were to red ink, even though only slightly more than a third (36 percent) had tattoos with red ink. One-third of chronic cases involved black ink, while over 90 percent of tattoos encompass black coloring.

Leger has plans for a larger survey to determine which colored inks and possible dye components are most closely tied to adverse reactions. She says her investigation might also reveal other factors that might put people at greater risk of suffering chronic complications.

In the meantime since the details of how these adverse reactions are caused are still unclear, the best thing may be to forego tattoos altogether.

Think before you ink – and maybe you’ll decide it’s not worth it after all.