Inmates have the opportunity to erase symbols of their pasts with the help of one compassionate initiative.
A program offered by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department helps remove tattoos from inmates in exchange for their enrollment in vocational or educational courses. What's more, the procedure, which can cost upward of $75 a session, is free for the inmate.
Since the incentivized program's launch back in 2012, about 2,500 inmates under the custody of the sheriff's department have received tattoo removals.
Cynthia K. Murphy, custody assistant of the Education Based Incarceration unit, who helps run the program, told The Huffington Post that it's about helping those incarcerated turn over a new leaf.
"They just want to start over -- one way or another it leads to that," she explained.
Those who have participated in the program, which is funded by the inmate welfare fund, had their tattoos removed for a myriad of reasons.
According to Murphy, some inmates had gang-affiliated ink and wished to leave that chapter behind. Others had tattoos in conspicuous areas, which could potentially hurt their chances of future employment in a professional environment. A few inmates, who were involved in prostitution, wanted to erase tattoos that acted as a brand from their pimps.
In order to get involved in the program, which is a combined effort between the LASD’s Inmate Services Bureau and the Medical Services Bureau, inmates must demonstrate that they are willing to make a positive change through academic or other types of courses, which can include parenting, life skills, bicycle repair or welding, among others.
They're then placed on a waitlist and screened for certain medical "disqualifiers." Once approved, participants visit a clinic where they begin the tattoo removal treatments. They're given as many treatments as needed to remove the tattoo -- as long as the participants are still incarcerated and continue their schooling or vocational courses.
Tattoo removal is certainly no easy process. But the pain, Murphy says, is worth it to those involved.
"I have never seen a group of people so grateful to have a procedure that's considered so painful. They're just elated," she said. "When they come out of the clinic area -- you've never see a smile so big."