Prison Tattoo Meanings

Tattoos are known to be a mark on your skin to represent something about yourself. This might be something that you hope to be, a cool design that you feel symbolizes something about you, or some kind of affiliation. In the case of prison tattoos, the later is usually the case.

There are a lot of reasons why someone might get a prison tattoo. Many times it is a cultural thing. Other times it’s a gang affiliation. Different countries have different prison gangs and prison tattoos that mean something specific.

We wouldn’t suggest getting one of these for yourself unless you’re affiliated with one of these groups. Having one might be bad news for you if you are seen with it. Whether it is an employer or someone in the group, the repercussions probably won’t be good.

However, there are a lot of people curious about prison tattoos and we wanted to talk about them. In this post we are going to go over some of these prison tattoos based on the country and the symbols. Every symbol in these different countries and prison systems will mean something else. We will talk about why people get these tattoos and what they represent. By the end of this post we hope you are a bit more informed on the matter.

Why Do People Get Prison Tattoos?

When men are put into the penal system, their connection from society is stripped away from them. Friends and family are gone. Essentially, every bit of privacy you had is gone now and you’re put into cages with other men.

Your identity is basically stripped away from you in the process. Prisoners’ self esteem goes out the window and the feeling of worthlessness can kick in. There are only so many things one can do in prison to have some sort of identity. To not just be a number.

In many cases, tattoos are a way to express themselves. It might be a way to let those emotions that you’re holding back, be on display for the world. It’s a way to have a sense of “self” in a system that takes everything from you. The only thing a prisoner has control over is their body. It can become their canvas where they can make themselves look anyway they want.

Another reason a prisoner might be rocking tattoos is to affiliate themselves with a gang or group of people. These tattoos can represent rank, what they’ve done and who they are representing. Not only are tattoos used to affiliate themselves with a gang, it might also represent a race. Many times the gangs are split up into ethnicities anyways, so tattoos represent both.

Teardrop Tattoo

Many tattoos in prison are well know from movies. One of these tattoos is the teardrop tattoo. Depending on what part of the world you’re from, the teardrop tattoo can have different meanings. In some places, the teardrop tattoo can represent the wearer murdering someone. In other places, it could represent a long prison sentence. An outline of the teardrop is said to represent an attempted murder or an attempted murder on a friend.

The meaning has changed over time with it becoming more mainstream. You see rappers and regular people with this tattoo these days. However, if you end up going to prison and you already have this tattoo, you’re going to start off with a bit of a reputation.

Cobweb/Spiderweb Tattoo

The spiderweb or cobweb tattoo is symbolic of a long prison term. Being caught in a spider web or being caught in prison. Either way, you aren’t going anywhere. Many times you will find this tattoo on the elbow. That is said to represent the time wasted just sitting. So much so, a spider might spin a web. Prison tattoos are almost always in black because they can’t get a hold of colored ink.

Five-Pointed Crown Tattoo

The Latin Kings are a gang based out of Chicago. Many these members end up in prison where more Hispanic men are recruited. They have a big presence in prison and in the outside world. Details might be added to this tattoo represent rank or other hidden meanings.

Russian Prison Tattoos

Russian prison inmates have a whole different group of meanings for their tattoos. One tattoo that you will see in the Russian prison system is the dagger through the neck tattoo. This symbol means the person wearing it has murdered someone in prison and is willing to do it again for the right price.

Stars on the shoulders of an inmate symbolizes some sort of authority held. Medals are tattooed on the body to symbolize a defiance of the Soviet regime.

One more Russian prison tattoo we’ve seen are devils on the shoulders. It represents a hatred of the prison structure and authority.

Irish Prison Tattoos

Many Irish prison tattoo revolve around notable Irish symbols that many Irish people; locked up or free, get inked. Shamrocks are always one we see on Irish prisoners. In addition, a dot under the eye is called a “jail dot” and is inked using Indian ink and this is done by ex-prisoners.

Three Dots Tattoo

The three dots tattoo for prisoners is one that represents a lifestyle. It stands for “my crazy life” or “mi vida loca”. This tattoo represents the lifestyle more than a gang affiliation. People with this tattoo are just into the gangster life.

However, you might find someone of the Christian faith with this tattoo as well. It is also said to represent the holy trinity which is the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

We talked about one gang tattoo but there are many of them that could be talked about. However, this gives you an idea of some of the more common prison tattoos and the meaning behind them. Be careful with having tattoos that look similar or someone might think you’re the wrong kind of person. Getting prison tattoos isn’t sanitary and many get sick from using dirty needles. However, some feel like the risk is worth as they are locked up anyways.

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