The idea of getting tattoos while incarcerated seems daring and a throwback to the days prior to tattooing becoming such a popular art form with mainstream America.
Learning how to tattoo in prison is usually an art handed down from one prisoner to another. An artist that is near the end of his sentence will usually hand down his equipment and knowledge to a fellow inmate. A talented artist can even earn money tattooing the guards in some cases.
Tattoo machines have advanced a bit from the old homemade tattoo machines. Now, there are two different types of motors typically used for making a machine. A motor from a CD player runs at a faster RPM and is used mostly to make a machine for outlining. In the tattoo industry this is referred to as a liner. A motor from a tape player is used to make a slower machine which is used for shading and filling in. Ink can be made from the handiest items. Toothpaste, book pages, and checkers are a few of the resources used.
The selection of art is typical of what is requested in the outside world. According to an artist recently released from prison, white prisoners typically have eclectic choices; Mexican guys favor religious images, and black prisoners like portraits and images representing gang affiliations.
The Teardrop Tattoo
We’ve all guessed at the meaning behind the tattoo of a teardrop on a man’s face. The truth is it means different things depending on the state you’re serving time in. Some prisoners wear teardrops placed under the left eye to count out their jail time. If inked under the right eye, it represents a dead friend. For some prisoners, it’s to keep track of the number of people they’ve murdered. In Texas, the teardrop is gang related. In some states, it holds no special meaning. It’s just a popular prison tattoo.