Tats, Tacs, Tatajues, and Filorasos. These are some of the tattoo terms convicts use behind the walls.
Tattoos have always been big in prisons across the world because they represent a form of rebellion. Tattoos are a way of broadcasting to the prison administration that, “hey, you might be able to control where you house my body, but you can’t dictate what the hell I put on it”.
That’s just one of several reasons. Another more honorable reason is a prisoner’s passion for art. Having quality tattoo skills in prison is a blessing since tattooing is a way of earning funds behind bars. Although slinging ink is against prison policy, seasoned tattoo artists stand a greater chance in making money than say the untalented penitentiary clown selling drugs behind the scene. In fact incarcerated tattoo artists are much smarter than the average bear and earn the respect of correctional officers who often view tattoo felons as humble and talented. Unlike most penitentiary predators that entertain their small brains with reckless gossip, habitual lies and gang related drama, a true tattoo artist occupies his or her mind with skin and art.
The money a convict makes while slinging ink is well earned. Nothing is free in prison as most people may assume. Basic necessities such as toothpaste and shampoo cost money and if a prisoner doesn't have family or friends assisting him with funds, he's probably going to wear down the enamel on his teeth with state issued baking soda.
Not only is tattooing in prison a complicated art, but a deadly one as well. HIV, Hepatitis C and other nasty diseases are always a major factor when handling the blood of an incarcerated stranger. That’s why many convicted tattoo artists conform to the laws of sterilization.
Scoring chemicals such as powdered bleach and latex gloves in prison is a challenge but isn’t impossible, especially if the artist maintains a good relationship with both officers and convicts alike. Tattooing in prison is all about connections and the last thing a true artist wants to do is burn his bridges. One, an artist must know the right trusties who are able to smuggle in basic tattoo necessities and two, hope that officers let them slide if caught slinging ink or with tattoo contraband.
Building a good tattoo gun is another issue any artist interested in going into the tattoo business in prison must master. Just as big brained scientists have advance in technology through out the years, hard headed convicts have done the same when it comes to building their tattoo guns. That’s why prison tattoos these days look so damn sharp. There are two standard types of prison tattoo pistols. The spinner and the relay. The relay method is much better than the now obsolete spinner rig-up of the past.
Not only is a tattoo artist able to maintain better control of a gun powered with a relay, but their also easier to build.
Heres how penitentiary MacGyver’s create the relay powered pistol.
1. A convict first breaks down his or her most valued possession, their AM-FM radio, and then removes the transistor.
The micro-thin copper coated wire is then carefully removed, wrapped around a screw which provides an automatic relay when juiced up. A convict must then smuggle some wire brush bristles from the maintenance shop which will serve him as a needle when sharpened correctly.
2. The cylinder is made from a quality mechanical pencil and the armature bar is made with a piece of flexible pallet band and dime size magnet. The tattoo gun is now powered by the transistor of yet another radio so owning one of these jack hammers can be costly considering the fact money is hard to come by in prison.
3. The struggle of prison tattooing doesn’t end there. Any tattoo artist caught slinging ink in prison is in for 15 days Solitary Confinement while all of his earnings are confiscated.
So that pretty much explains why tattoo artists in prison make some decent funds.