Gang tattoos, face and hand tattoos - one by one, they're fading away, and identities are being restored. The Jail Ministry offers free laser tattoo removal as a practical way of helping inmates break free from their past.
“A gang tattoo, in my eyes, is a symbol of a lost child caught in this system. Gangs embrace young men in the prison system as a family, but never speak the truth of their true interest in that young man. Gangs are like the devil seeking the life and soul of a lost child, and now that I am a man, I must live as a man and end the life as a child. Thank you again for helping me to start putting the childish ways behind me.” ~ JamesWe see and hear how this program removes burdens that sometimes have been carried around for most of an inmate's life. Maybe getting the tattoo was an impulsive decision made under the influence, but has caused a lifetime of fear. Maybe a parent tattooed him at a young age, setting him on a path of pain and distrust. Or a pimp tattooed her, to remind her everyday she is someone's "property." The effect of these tattoos is more than skin-deep; the pain they carry can be incomprehensible. But with God's power, the laser is removing marks of the past, and helping our inmates experience optimism as they face the future. The Jail Ministry tattoo removal program puts an emphasis on the removal of:
“The tattoos that you're removing for me have ruled my life far too long. But, with them being removed I'll no longer be ruled by my past. I've realized that my past doesn't have to define who and what I am. I've never realized before all this of just how strong I really am. It takes real strength to commit to change, and I assure you I am committed to changing my life for the better, and removing these gang and racially motivated tattoos shows how desperately I long for change.” ~ JefferyDonations from community members, organizations and churches funded the purchase of two Astanza Duality lasers – one is inside the jail, and the other is at Vista Community Health Center in Goshen – so when inmates are released, they may continue their treatments. Word of the program has traveled quickly within the jail, and requests from inmates for tattoo removal come in daily. The waiting period is about six weeks from the of date of their request, and up to ten clients are treated per day.
The tattoo fading process varies based on skin and ink types, but complete removal typically happens between five and eight treatments, with six weeks between treatments. After just one session, though, fading is evident - as is the enthusiasm!
Note: Tattoo removal is free inside the jail, and is offered for $10 per treatment at Vista Community Health Center to former inmates, as well as any Elkhart County residents with face, hand, or gang tattoos. To make an appointment at Vista, please call 574-534-0088.
You can make a one-time annual donation, or you can become a monthly partner and designate a specific amount each month to give to the ministry.
Alternatively, you may mail a check made out to "Elkhart County Jail Ministry" to the following address:
Elkhart County Jail Ministry
26861 County Road 26
Elkhart, Indiana 46517