It’s 9pm. The officers just walked their last rounds of count for the second shift. In a few minutes, the count will be cleared and the inmates will be moving around getting to where they need or want to be. There is a room in my unit where the dyes are being mixed together, the artwork design is being finalized, and the soft hum and vibration of a motor is being turned on. It’s tattooing time!
The word tattoo is defined as an indelible mark or figure fixed upon the body by insertion of pigment under the skin or by production of scars. In prison, well over 75% of the population have at least one tattoo, 50% of the population have multiple tattoos, and about 25% have sleeves of tattoos up and down their arms, legs, torsos and even heard and neck. There is one inmate who has every inch of his body tattooed except the skin on his face. It’s quite a sight to see.
I am one who does not have any ink spots on his body. Could I easily get a tattoo in here? Absolutely! In fact, it’s cheaper to get one here than it is outside of prison. The artists in this place are probably just as good if not better than the ones out there. They use their make-shift tattoo guns that are made from beard trimmers or fan motors, ink pens, hobby craft needles, and a wide variety of dyes that come from pens, markers, paints, and actual food to create their magnificent artwork.
Actually, an inmate could get in trouble for getting a tattoo in prison as well as the person who does the work. Make-shift tattoo guns are not allowed on the compound, thus disallowing all the fresh ink marks. Does it stop people from getting them? No way! They’re criminals; they live life on the edge! So during the evening times after count, when the officers are nowhere to be found, tattoo shops are in business.
Before coming to prison I never even considered getting a tattoo. In my opinion tattoos are ways of expressing oneself. I’ve seen all sorts of tattoos, from explicitly graphic artwork to pictures of their kids or family, and others have a bunch of crazy and unique designs. Nowadays I’m definitely not opposed to tattoos or even getting one. I just would never get one here. If I decide to get one when I leave this place, I would probably get tattoos of Bible verses that have impacted and meant something to me.
When I was competing in the Tough Mudder competition before coming to prison I had Philippians 4:13 written in permanent marker on my back. I competed with a shirt off and during the race a number of participants asked me what that said. In case you don’t know, it says “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” For reasons like that I would consider getting tattoos, as an expression for my love of Christ.
Did you know God has tattoos? Yes! He tells us in Isaiah 49:16 “I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” Now that is pretty cool. I truly believe He tattoos our names as an expression for His love for us. When He looks down at His hands He sees and knows our names. When He was dying on the cross, our names were already on His hands, right next to the nails. And when He looked over at His hands while hanging on the cross, He saw our names and was reminded that He was dying for us. He never has and never will forget us. Just as God expresses His love for us with an engraving of our names on His hands, think about how you can express your love for Christ in a bold and profound way! Don’t be afraid to let your love of Christ show forth in all your ways!