Everyone makes mistakes. Whether it's cheating on your history final or that shamrock tattoo you got last St. Patrick's Day, there are things in our past we wish we could erase. For one portion of the population, that desire is both figurative and literal: ex-convicts.

For the hundreds of thousands of men and women who come through the correctional system, there are often aspects of their past they wish they could erase. On many occasions, these are physical – tattoos acquired while spending time in a penitentiary.

The story behind prison tattoos
Tattoos and the correctional system have a long and muddy history. Despite limited resources, inmates are very creative when it comes to finding ways to administer ink while under lockup. This practice is done for many reasons. Some do it simply because they enjoy the aesthetic, while other tattoos are administered for gang-related purposes.

In fact, prison tattooing has become over the years an art in its own right, and there are even common symbols and designs that have been given designated meanings, similar to how many people get tattoos of butterflies or dreamcatchers. For example, an inmate with a cobweb tattooed on his or her elbow has served a lengthy sentence. A tattoo depicting playing cards can often signify an affinity for gambling. Other designs are more subtle – five dots on the hand can indicate that the person has done time in prison before. As Corrections One noted, this design is common not just in U.S. prisons, but across Europe as well.

The dangers
While prison tattooing is nearly as common as its commercial counterpart, that doesn't mean it's necessarily a good idea. Both the method and the outcome can lead to repercussions for the recipient, both social and medical. For starters, since inmates don't have access to regulation tattoo machines, they make their own from whatever components they can find. Some will use motors from machine shops, but in a pinch a simple needle can suffice. Additionally, inks have to be hand-made, usually either coming from broken pens or even by burning plastic to use the soot.

Additionally, professional tattooists inject ink at a very specific depth in the skin – too deep or too shallow and the color will blur and fade. This precision is often absent when tattoos are administered in prison with hand-made tools.

The aftermath
Medical dangers aside, those who bear prison tattoos often wish they didn't when they return to their daily lives. Tattoos are already stigmatized in general across many professions, and tattoos that are associated with prisons or other criminal activity may as well serve as a bright flashing "do not hire" sign. While some former inmates may choose to carry their ink as a reminder of past mistakes, many others want to eradicate their tatts so they can resume normal life.

For these people, the issue goes beyond mere tattoo regret, and tattoo removal methods can serve as nothing short of a lifeline. Ex-convicts who sit down to undergo laser tattoo removal aren't just ridding themselves of unwanted ink – in many cases, they're ridding themselves of a part of their life they want to distance themselves from. In fact, it's not uncommon for charity organizations and community health clinics to offer free or discounted laser tattoo removal to those who have been released from prison, as a means of helping them get their lives back underway.

PicoSure® is the latest technology for laser tattoo removal and offers faster and better removal in fewer treatments. PicoSure shatters ink into smaller, dust-like particles which are more efficiently absorbed by the body's natural processes. It is the first and only aesthetic picosecond laser that is FDA-cleared for the removal of tattoos. Visit www.picosurear.wpengine.com to learn more and find a PicoSure Practitioner near you.