Voluntary tattoo removal eases transition back into community
By Joe Orlando, CDCR Public Information Officer
Eighteen juvenile offenders at N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility (NAC) recently took an important step toward their rehabilitation and re-entry into society by deciding to remove their tattoos.
“We’ll remove most tattoos as long as they’re progressing in their rehabilitation,” said Mike Miranda, Gang Intelligence Coordinator at NAC.
The Voluntary Tattoo Removal Program is intended to help the youthful offenders prepare to go back to their communities by giving them a better chance to get a job, cutting ties with influences which contributed to their delinquency.
Youth Offender Robert hopes to parole in two months.
“I got the tattoos when I was 16, he said. “They’re not even professionally done. I’ve got to look presentable when I get out and start looking for a job.”
Dermatologist Walter Yourchek, manning the laser, has been removing tattoos at NAC for 14 years.
“We’ve come a long way with the technology,” he said. “No more bleeding and excessive pain like these guys used to have to go through.”
Gang Coordinator Miranda insisted it’s a life-changing step when the juvenile offenders volunteer to remove gang tattoos.
“There’s life after incarceration,” Miranda said. “Removing tattoos, especially gang tattoos, is a huge factor. This is a short stay here and only a part of their life, so they need to plan for the future.”
The juvenile offenders apply for the voluntary program and the youth correctional counselor and parole agent must sign off on their behalf.
They won’t remove all tattoos, only those which could prevent them from being employed, such as those visible on the face, neck, lower arms or hands. For female youth, tattoos on the lower legs and ankles will be considered for removal. Tattoos must be gang related or otherwise viewed as offensive.
The youth must be 18 and demonstrate a desire to disassociate from negative peer groups and anti-social behaviors which are counterproductive to a successful parole experience, according to officials.
Photographs are used to illustrate before and after views of the removed tattoos.
Miranda said when the tattoos are fully or partially removed, notifications are sent to law enforcement agencies, the Department of Justice and the Division of Juvenile justice.
Jonathon, 21, is up for parole in December. He has spent nearly half his life behind bars.
“I want to move away from all this. At one time, I bought into the gangs and what they represented,” he said. “I’ve spent too much of my life screwing up. It’s time to turn things around.”
Dr. Yourchek said it can take several laser treatments over many months to remove the tattoos.
“I’d like to finish what I started. I just don’t want to be judged by my tattoos. I want a fresh start,” said Sergio, a 19-year-old offender.
Irving, 19, has had four tattoos removed, two of them gang-related.
“I don’t want anybody thinking I associate with that gang when I get out,” he said.