Inmates get tattoos removed through community service - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Inmates get tattoos removed through community service

Charles Greene gets a tattoo removed from his face. (Source: Richmond Sheriff's Office) Charles Greene gets a tattoo removed from his face. (Source: Richmond Sheriff's Office)

A Richmond business is removing tattoos for inmates and the payment comes in the form of community service.

You're told to dress for the job you want, but for many former inmates, they cannot remove a part of their appearance that may prevent them from even getting that job interview.

"People look at you different. I wouldn't hire me. I got to get it off, and the sooner I get it off, the better my life will be," said Charles Greene.

He's talking about a tattoo he has on his face, a permanent reminder of who he used to be.

Greene has been behind bars, admitting to getting back into selling drugs, which led him back to prison.

"I thought I could do better, but I didn't have the resources," he said. 

That is where the Richmond City Sheriff's Offices' Internal Program Department comes in. The REAL Program provides resources for inmates to better themselves.

The program is now looking at research that hypothesizes that tattoo removal could put a dent in reducing recidivism, or repeat offenders.

"The study found that inmates with one or more visible tattoos had an increased likelihood of recidivating for a violent crime within three years following prison release," said a news release from the program. "By removing these tattoos, especially for young inmates, it gives them opportunities that were likely not previously available."

For Greene, removing the facial tattoo will allow him to move forward.

"I'm just trying to find a job, and with this tattoo on my face it is hard. I've been dealing with it all my life. I put it up there during my addiction, now it's time for it to go. Because I've changed," said Greene, as he worked at a local church.

The work is part of his community service that pays for the tattoo removal.

"For every hour of documented volunteer work, I give them a $10 credit towards the cost of their procedure," said Chuck Powell of East Coast Tattoo Removal.

Powell does not charge the city or taxpayers; he simply asks the inmates to better the community so they can better themselves.

"I do this as a way to give back. Number one, they don't have the financial means. And if I can help with the recidivism rate and not get back into gangs, back into prison, that benefits the community," said Powell.

The process usually takes several treatments to get rid of the ink. The focus is on visible tattoos, such as on the face, neck, and hands, that often prohibit job attainment.

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