Prison tattooing is a tradition that has been around for a very long time. Prison tattoos are a form of communication and means of self-expression for inmates. These Prison tattoos tell a lot about the bearer, including their association of various gangs, status in prison, relationship with family, life events, personal beliefs and values.
Instead of looking beautiful prison tattoos contain intricate and interesting meanings.
- 1 Prison Tattoos # Cross on the Chest
- 2 Prison Tattoos # 1488
- 3 Prison Tattoos # A.C.A.B.
- 4 Prison Tattoos # Aryan Brotherhood
- 5 Prison Tattoos # Cobweb or Spider Tattoo
- 6 Prison Tattoos # EWMN
- 7 Prison Tattoos # Three Dots
- 8 Prison Tattoos # Five Dots
- 9 Prison Tattoos # Five-point Crown
- 10 Prison Tattoos # MS 13
- 11 Prison Tattoos # The Clock with no hands
- 12 Prison Tattoos # Norteño/NUESTRA FAMILIA
- 13 Prison Tattoos # Playing Cards Tattoo
- 14 Prison Tattoos # The Teardrop
- 15 Prison Tattoos # Dagger through neck
- 16 Prison Tattoos # Barbed wire tattoo
- 17 Prison Tattoos # LA EME
Prison Tattoos # Cross on the Chest
Cross tattoo on the chest symbolize ‘Prince of thieves’, mostly found in Russian prison system and usually means that the person bearing the tattoo is a higher-ranking member of a mafia.
Prison Tattoos # 1488
The Aryan Brotherhood was born in San Quentin State Prison in the middle of 1960s, throughout the years the Brotherhood or the brand become to be known is one of the most violent gangs in the prison system today. Their Tattoo has a special meaning and 1488 tattoo is one of them. In the Nazi ideology the 14 refers to the 14 words which are from the quote by an American white supremacist David Lane: “we must secure the existence of our people in a future for white children” which serves as a slogan for white nationalists and white supremacists. The 88 refers to the eighth letter of the alphabet which is ‘H’ and two H’s stand for Heil Hitler.
Prison Tattoos # A.C.A.B.
ACAB a tattoo more common in a UK penal system, the A.C.A.B. stands for “All cops are bastards”.
Prison Tattoos # Aryan Brotherhood
Aryan brotherhood is a prison gang that accounts for 20% of all prison murders despite making up less than 1% of the US prison population. The Aryan brotherhood gang has other tattoos to look out for too such as AB or the swastika.
Prison Tattoos # Cobweb or Spider Tattoo
Spider web or cobweb tattoo is a frequent tattoo seen in most prisons and it means a lengthy prison sentence. The symbolism is associated with spiders trapping prey; or criminals trapped behind bars. This tattoo is commonly found on the elbow, signifying sitting around so long with your elbows on the table that a spider makes a web on your elbow. Spider web tattoo can be also seen on the neck.
Prison Tattoos # EWMN
No particular affiliation with any gang. EWMN across the knuckles means “EVIL, WICKED, MEAN, NASTY”. Typically found on the knuckles. These kind of knuckle tattoos became very popular in 1955 after the movie “The Night of the hunter” was release where Robert Mitchum played a sociopath preacher character and had ‘LOVE’ and ‘HATE’ tattooed on the knuckles of each hand.
Prison Tattoos # Three Dots
Three Dots tattoos often found on the hands or near the eye. This is a very common prison tattoo that represents “me vida loca” means my crazy life which is not associated with any gang in particular but gang lifestyle.
Prison Tattoos # Five Dots
Five dots tattoo is totally different from three dots tattoo. Five dots on a hand represent time done in prison. The four dots on the outside represent the walls of the prison cells and the dot in the middle represents the inmate who is bearing the tattoo.
Prison Tattoos # Five-point Crown
The Five-point crown is a symbol of the Latin Kings, the largest and the most organized Hispanic street gangs in the United States. The Syndicates originated in the Puerto Rican community in Chicago in 1940s. The Latin kings are spread across 158 cities in 31 states and the current estimation of members is between 20,000 to 35,000. The five points in the crown are representative of the Latin Kings affiliation with people’s nation gang which is the alliance of gangs in Chicago. Sometimes the crown has the letters ALKN with it, which stands for Almighty Latin Kings Nation.
Prison Tattoos # MS 13
Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13)originated in Los Angeles California by Salvadorian immigrants who came to United States after the Central American civil wars in the 1980s. Originally the goal of the MS 13 was to protect other Salvadorians from more established gangs in LA. They are most known for their use of extreme violence, merciless revenge and cruel retributions. Mara Salvatrucha members are very easy to identify because they distinguish themselves by covering their entire body in tattoos including their faces.
Prison Tattoos # The Clock with no hands
This tattoo has an obvious meaning. The clock symbolizes prison and the lack of the hands on the clock means that the prisoner has an extraordinarily long sentence. The clock face comes in various forms like wrist watch, grandfather clock or pocket watch e.g. Not all the Clock tattoos are associated to prison, only the ones with no hands.
Prison Tattoos # Norteño/NUESTRA FAMILIA
Nuestra familia was created in the Northern Californian prison system in 1968. This Mexican American gang operates in and out of the correctional institutions in the states. They are known to influence the actions of the Norteños which are loosely affiliated street gang that pays tribute to the NF, while in the prisons they also run the nuestra familia and distribute cocaine, heroin, crystal meth and marijuana within the prison systems. To identify themselves as the NF, the members either get a tattoo of the N F on their body or an image of a sombrero and machete which is their gang symbol.
Prison Tattoos # Playing Cards Tattoo
Playing cards or suits of the deck in general usually indicates that an inmate who likes to gamble both inside and outside of the prison. It can also represent a person who generally views life as a gamble.
Prison Tattoos # The Teardrop
This is probably the most widely recognized prison tattoo in the world. The teardrop has different meanings from around the world. In some places this tattoo can mean a lengthy prison sentence or in other places it can actually mean that the inmate has murdered somebody and each drop represents every person they have killed. It can also mean that one of inmate’s friends or family was murdered and that they are seeking revenge. The teardrop tattoo has been popularized recently by rappers and other celebrities, but still remains a staple in prisons.
Prison Tattoos # Dagger through neck
In Russian prisons a dagger across the shoulders and through the neck is probably one of the infamous and scary tattoos in the prison. It signifies that the person has killed someone in the prison and is available for hire.
Prison Tattoos # Barbed wire tattoo
This is a pretty common prison tattoo in Russia. If a prisoner has the barbed wire tattoo across their forehead, it usually means that he has a life sentence without the possibility of parole. But barbed wire tattoos done in other countries can signify the number of years that the inmate has served in prison.
Prison Tattoos # LA EME
LA EME, Spanish for “The M” is a very organized Mexican mafia originated in the US Prison system and actually has no roots in Mexico. Law enforcement estimates that there are no official leadership in Mexican mafia but many members have the authority to order murders or oversee various other criminal activities. Authorities also estimates that there are only 300 official members of LA EME but have nearly a thousand associates that are willing to do anything in order to become a member on the inside.