A U.S. Probation office is teaming up with the Topeka police to incentivize convicted criminals to remove their tattoos. The Tattoo Removal Incentive Program began in 2013 as a joint effort by Corporal Ruben Salamanca of the Topeka police and United States probation officer Diana Kerns.
The pair’s mission was to help inmates change their lives by removing the tattoos that once helped them identify with the criminal life. After release from incarceration such tattoos can serve as detriments, which prevent ex-cons from gaining employment, and can create a stigma around them in society.
The program does not remove all of the tattoos an inmate may have. Qualifying tats must be antisocial or gang related, or must be shown to potentially interfere with the ex-con’s ability to gain employment or integrate into society.
Tattoos that would qualify would include a tattoo tear, for example, which is used in gang culture across the country to signify the paradoxical sadness a person feels after committing a murder.
In addition to having qualifying tattoos, the person must agree not to get any additional tattoos and must pass drug tests before having their tats removed. Additionally, they must be in compliance with the law and in compliance with any supervision or social programs to which they have been assigned.
Though the tattoo removal is currently being offered at a discount, up to 75 percent off in some cases, Kerns and Salamanca hope to be able to offer it for free in the near future.
Anecdotes indicate that the inmates who have undergone the procedures have had positive results. One inmate, who had various tattoos removed as a result of the program, reported that the program has opened up a new world to him, and stated that he is incredibly thankful.
Kerns and Salamanca believe that the program is a perfect example of how law enforcement agencies can work together to positively affect the community.