Here’s a snap shot of some of the meanings behind the tattoos. These meanings were more solid when prisons were under soviet influence and prison gang rule was more prevalent:
243 in a badge: killed a police officer, it’s taken from the California penal code and would be often worn on the arm or hand that had done the damage to the cop.
Bear: professional safe cracker.
Bells: signify the wearer will serve his whole sentence.
Cat: single cat normally means a lone thief, a group of cats means they operated as a team.
Churches, Mosques and Fortresses: normally the number of towers or spires indicates how many years they’ve been incarcerated.
Dagger: sex offender.
Goat: informer (I guess that’s one of the ones you don’t choose for yourself).
Rose with thorns: prisoner came of age in prison.
Stars: on the knees mean that he will kneel for no one. On the shoulders it means he is a man of discipline, status, and tradition.
ACAB: often across the knuckles, this came from British culture, meaning “All Coppers Are Bastards”.
I know the art work is rough in places, I know the life style is deeply harsh, but there’s something undeniably cool about the way these guys look.
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