In prison, you can lose all your belongings in one day: all you have to do is to annoy the jailer (prison guard). But convicts have something that nobody can take away from them: their tattoos. It's by these tattoos that you can tell without words who you've met: learn the position, character, reason for serving your sentence, and much more about your interlocutor. However, if you wear a symbol that you do not deserve, then you will face serious penalties, up to and including death. This article will discuss the meanings of various prison tattoos in American prisons.
An unpainted tear under the eye means that its wearer has committed one murder. After each subsequent murder, one such tear will be added.
A colored tear means that the convict is mourning the death of a loved one, which he would have liked to prevent, but could not because of his imprisonment.
1/ East River Tattoo.
Duke Riley's tattoo parlor, located in Greenpoint just a few blocks from the East River, opened in 2000. Its "thing" is a nautical theme (but not exclusively), so this place would be a great choice for those looking to get a tattoo related to water, the sea, or underwater life. The atmosphere inside the studio is conducive to productive creative work, the pleasant color of the walls and lots of antiques are pleasing to the eye. You can get a spontaneous tattoo here without signing up in advance, but be prepared to spend at least $100 on your update. East River Tatoo is located at 1047 Manhattan Ave. More information can be found on the tattoo parlor's website.
The three dots symbolize a gang member's life: to jail, to the hospital and to the cemetery. These tattoos are even given to newcomers who are not yet full-fledged gang members. This tattoo is not tied specifically to any gang, stabbing it is allowed to any member of criminal gangs.
Also, the three dots can be associated with the tattoo "mi vida loca" or "VL", which means "crazy life".
6/Majestic Tattoo NYC.
Adal Ray, owner of this tattoo parlor in Bushwick, is considered by many to be one of the best artisans in town, and for good reason: he carefully designs the sketch to fit the wearer's body perfectly. Ray's portfolio is full of psychedelic and fractal works, and he is currently actively inspired by Dadaism (European avant-garde), so that even the craziest concepts will be easily brought to life. But even if you're looking for something more traditional, you shouldn't pass by, as Ray's colleague, Adriana specializes in watercolors, geometrics and graphics. Majestic Tattoo NYC is located at 1086 Broadway. More information can be found on the tattoo parlor's website.
A tattoo in the form of 4 dots on the corners of a square and one in the center is usually pricked between the thumb and forefinger. It indicates that a person has served time and is interpreted as "a prisoner in four walls." The tattoo was originally stabbed in Vietnam and carries a slightly different meaning: "in the circle of friends" - this person has someone to answer for.
3/ Fun City Tattoo
The owner of this salon, Jonathan Shaw, started tattooing 40 years ago, when the art was forbidden. In the early '90s, he opened his own tattoo parlor. Now the veteran of the tattoo scene is retired, but his studio in New York City still operates in the East Village, serving even celebrity clients such as Johnny Depp, Iggy Pop, Dee Dee Ramone, Miley Cyrus and others. The studio has a set price floor of $100 per session, and fees per hour range from $250-$300. Fun City Tattoo is located at 94 St Marks Pl. More information can be found on the tattoo parlor's website.
The spider web is usually applied to the elbow, knee or neck. Interpreted it is about the same in all countries and criminal groups: "I'm caught and get out I will be very difficult. For example, the cobwebs are spiked by people who have been in prison and add one ring every year they have served time. Also a spider web can be tattooed as a sign of joining a gang and also every year one more ring to be tattooed.
Often ordinary citizens want to prick themselves a spider web "by stranger", but most tattoo artists refuses them, because for such a tattoo "will ask" not only from its bearer, but also from the one who pricked.
8/ Electric Anvil Tattoo
The studio was founded by Josh Agnew and Jeremy Sutton (with 12 and 20 years of experience respectively). Inspiration here is drawn from art books collected over the years, many of which are on display in the salon. And even if you can't make it to one of the establishment's two founders, don't feel bad: the other artists working here have at least 10 years of experience. You can also drop in here without an appointment. Prices for tattoos start at $100. Important note: the salon sells beautiful piercing jewelry, however, the piercing service, as such, is not provided here. Electric Anvil Tattoo is located at 721 Franklin Ave. More information can be found on the tattoo parlor's website.
Latin Queens and Kings.
Founded in Chicago in 1940, the gang was an association of Puerto Ricans to fight racism and oppression of Spanish immigrants. Later they were joined by Mexicans from the South. Gang members wear a five-pointed crown in black, red or yellow. The figure can be replaced by the abbreviation ALKN - Almighty Latin King Nation or ALQN - Almighty Latin Quin Nation.
Today the gang has about 18,000 members and influence in 34 states
"Mexican Mafia" is almost the most authoritative criminal organization among all prison institutions in the United States. Gangs under its control, like MS-13, do almost all the dirty work, and the Mafia has only to lead. As the saying goes: "It's your business to wave your fists, others will think for you. The gang has its own constitution, an extensive set of rules and a detailed code of honor. According to this set of rules, the sole purpose of each member of the gang is to conduct a line of work that benefits all members of the criminal organization. "The MM was formed back in the 1950s, and now its authority is almost at its peak. The Mexicans are interested in any kind of illegal activity that is willing to bring in money, so the extent of their influence in Texas and California is virtually limitless. Anyone who violates the inner workings of a gang can be put to death. Murder is generally a common type of solution to problems in the MM. There are four types of violations, which are followed by imminent death:
- Leaking gang information;
- Disrespect for group members;
"The Texas Syndicate is a very old prison gang with about 19,000 members. It is possible to become a member only in prison, all who join it agree to put the interests of the gang above their own, and at the right time to give their lives for the honor of the group.
The tattoo can be applied in different variations, but they all boil down to the letters "T" and "S": the "S" can be a snake or a naked girl, and the "T" can be a cross. Some people tattoo the number "2019," which symbolizes the serial numbers of the letters "T" and "S" in the alphabet.
2/ Fleur Noire Tattoo Parlor.
If you're a fan of geometric style and line art in tattoo art, you should check out this studio that opened in October 2021. It's easily recognized by the rose on the main window, which resembles the flower from Depeche Mode's Violator album cover. Although this salon is brand new, once inside you won't notice, thanks to the comfortable atmosphere, leather sofas, and beautifully designed flash sets on the walls. The artisans at this studio worked internationally (France, Russia, Turkey, Columbia) before settling in New York. The minimum price here is $100; prepayment is required.
Fleur Noire Tattoo Parlor is located at 439 Metropolitan Ave. More information can be found on the tattoo parlor website.
Mara Salvatrucha is the most violent and ruthless gang with 70,000 members in 42 states and close ties to neighboring countries. One of the gang members mercilessly shot a car with his family that blocked his exit gate. All were killed. The FBI has a special unit that works only on the gang's connections.
Gang members wear "MS", "Mara" or "MS 13" on their bodies or faces, often with the letters adorned with devil horns.
Puerto Rican greetings from a criminal gang that advocated the absolute independence of Puerto Rico. Initially, the members of the group, formed in the 1970s, considered their main activity to be the study and dissemination of Latin American culture for all those who had forgotten their roots. They became a kind of political movement and began to gain momentum. And nowadays it is one of the most influential and dangerous criminal groups in the U.S., which has gone from moral assistance to Puerto Rican immigrants to direct action. Now "? etas" ("Grandsons") take the lead in all Puerto Rican drug trafficking, carrying out thefts, robberies and murders. A favorite method of this gang is to send a body part of one of its relatives or gang members to its direct competitor to make it clear that its intentions are serious. A kind of warning signal. Over 10,000. active members of the ?etas now reside in the United States.
Texas Chicano Brotherhood.
"The Brotherhood arose when members of the Tri-City Bombers street gang ended up in a Texas prison and could not agree with the Syndicate, even though both groups had the same goal: to fight racism and violence against Mexicans. The gang has 4,000 members. The internal structure is similar to that of the army: generals, majors, lieutenants, and soldiers. All members, regardless of rank, wear the stylized letters "TCB" or "100% Chicano".
5/ Daredevil Tattoo.
In 1997, when tattoos were legalized in New York City after a 36-year ban, friends Michelle Miles and Brad Fink opened their first tattoo parlor on the Lower East Side. The duo became famous for their work with musicians and actors such as Joan Jett, Emma Roberts and Kelly Osborne. Their new studio, where they moved in 2013, is twice the size of their previous one. It even has its own museum of tattoo artifacts, including the work of Samuel O'Reilly, the man who created the first electric tattoo machine in 1891. Prices at this salon start at $100, with custom projects charged at $200 an hour. Daredevil Tattoo is located at 141 Division St. More information can be found on the tattoo parlor's website.
La Eme is a Mexican mafia that controls most of the prison gangs in Southern California. La Eme originated in the 1950s. Today, La Eme controls the drug trade in prisons as well as on the outside, working closely with the Aryan Brotherhood.
The gang members wear tattoos in the shape of the letter "M" (the thirteenth letter of the alphabet) or the number "13". The black hand of death is also common. The gang that controls all transactions in prisons has a rule that every member who goes free must leave the walls of the "house of execution" in a white T-shirt and with $300 in his pocket, and this is exactly what happens.
A gang of black criminals who actively cooperate with the prison authorities. Formed in San Francisco in 1985, hence the gang's main symbol - 415 (according to the city's phone code). If you add up each digit of the number 415 separately, you get 10. In Swahili, 10 sounds like "Kumi. The gang's reputation among the rest of the criminal underworld is not high for its apparent loyalty to the authorities and the guards. There have been cases where Kumi members colluded with the guards and the guards allowed them to eliminate undesirable prisoners.
Sureños (meaning "southerners" in Spanish) are a Southern California street gang subordinate to the Mexican Mafia. Sureños are nothing more than the hands of Mexican mafiosi. About 150 Mafia leaders control the activities of the Sureños. Often the number 13 (the 13th letter of the alphabet, "M") is drawn under the "SUR" symbols, which is disguised as a kiss to avoid ending up in the first positions with the cops.
If there are "Southerners", then there must also be "Norteño". These Northern California gangs are under the archenemy of the Mexican Mafia, the Nuestra Familia. The tattoos reflect the north in every possible way:
- 925 is the code for Northern California.
- The symbol of the Nuestra familia clan is the sombrero
A movement of bikers in the United States who are very disliked by the police, and for good reason: pimping, drug dealing, and robbery. The gang appeared in 1940, and gained fame because they were invited to be bodyguards during TheRollingStones tour (one man died).
The biker badge is a "death head" (a copy from the 552nd Bomber Squadron of World War II). Also instead of the head they stab the capital letters "hell's angels", "HA", "81" or sometimes "AFFA" - Angel Forever Forever Angel.
7/Rose Tattoo Parlor.
This Williamsburg institution specializes in traditional American tattoos such as roses, snakes, skulls and guns done in bright, rich hues that won't fade over time. Owner Mark Cross and four other artists are professionals in their craft. All the works that adorn the walls of the studio are their author's sketches drawn by hand. Here you can either sign up for a session in advance or just come in at any time for an unscheduled session (note, there is no appointment for Saturdays). The minimum cost for the job is $100, and a palm-sized tattoo will cost between $300 and $500. Rose Tattoo Parlor is located at 382 Graham Ave. More information can be found on the tattoo parlor's website.