gamepirates.net // Criminal tattoo
Prisoners who were transported from Britain to Australian penal colonies between 1787 and 1867 were sometimes tattooed with marks intended to signify disgrace, for example D for deserter. However, prisoners often modified these tattoos to conceal the original design or to express wry or rebellious messages.
Common tattoos are names of relatives or gang members, symbols of aggression, tattoos advertising a particular skill, or religious imagery. One of the most well-known tattoos is the teardrop tattoo, which commonly indicates the bearer has killed.
Eye of Horus Protection from enemies/back-stabbers
Anubis Protection from death
Ankh Eternal life
Russia and former Soviet republics
Main articles: Vor v zakone and Russian mafia
Russian criminal tattoos have a complex system of symbols which can give quite detailed information about the wearer. Not only do the symbols carry meaning but the area of the body on which they are placed may be meaningful too. The initiation tattoo of a new gang member is usually placed on the chest and may incorporate a rose. A rose on the chest is also used within the Russian Mafia. Wearing false or unearned tattoos is punishable in the criminal underworld. Tattoos can be voluntarily removed (for loss of rank, new affiliation, “life style” change, etc.) by bandaging magnesium powder onto the surface of the skin, which dissolves the skin bearing the marks with painful caustic burns. This powder is gained by filing “light alloy” e.g. lawnmower casing, and is a jailhouse commodity.
Tattoos done in a Russian prison have a distinct bluish color and usually appear somewhat blurred because of the lack of instruments to draw fine lines. The ink is often created from burning the heel of a shoe and mixing the soot with urine, and injected into the skin utilizing a sharpened guitar string attached to an electric shaver.
In addition to voluntary tattooing, tattoos are used to stigmatize and punish individuals within the criminal society. They may be placed on an individual who fails to pay debts in card games, or otherwise breaks the criminal code, and often have very blatant sexual images, embarrassing the wearer. The victim of a forcibly applied tattoo is nevertheless required to pay the tattoo artist for his work.
Tattoos on the forehead are usually forcibly applied, and designed both to humiliate the bearer and warn others about him or her. They frequently consist of slurs about the bearer’s ethnicity, sexual orientation, or perceived collusion with the prison authorities. They can indicate that the bearer is a member of a political group considered offensive by other prisoners (e.g. Vlasovite), or has been convicted of a crime (such as child rape) which is disapproved of by other criminals.
Tattoos that consist of political or anti-authoritarian statements are known as “grins”. They are often tattooed on the stomach of a thief in law, as a means of acquiring status in the criminal community. A Russian criminologist, Yuri Dubyagin, has claimed that, during the Soviet era, there existed “secret orders” that an anti-government tattoo must be “destroyed surgically”, and that this procedure was usually fatal.
Churches, fortresses, etc, are often tattooed on the chest, back, or hand. The number of spires or towers can represent the years a prisoner has been incarcerated, or number of times they have been imprisoned. The phrase, “The Church is the House of God,” often inscribed beneath a cathedral, has the metaphorical meaning, “Prison is the Home of the Thief.”
Barbed wire; tattooed across the forehead signifies a sentence of life imprisonment without possibility of parole.
Spider or spider web: symbolize drug addiction
Cat: a career as thief, a single cat means the bearer worked alone, several cats mean the bearer was part of a gang
Birds over horizon: meaning “I was born free and should be free”
Dagger through neck: sex offender
SS: never having confessed to anything
Irezumi, Japanese tattooing
Triad (underground societies)
HWDP – Polish anti-Police acronym
^ “Criminal Tattoo History & Tattoo meanings”. source. http://www.getinked.co.uk/criminal-tattoo-history.html. Retrieved 2009.
^ “About – Criminal tattoo”. source. http://www.tattoo-designs.dk/prison-tattoos.html. Retrieved 2009.
^ a b Niyi Awofeso (June 2004). “Prison argot and penal discipline”. Journal of Mundane Behavior 5 (1). http://mundanebehavior.org/issues/v5n1/awofeso5-1.htm.
Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia Volume I Danzig Baldaev, ISBN 3-88243-920-3
Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia Volume II Danzig Baldaev, ISBN 978-0955006128
Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia Voume III Danzig Baldaev, ISBN 978-0955006197
Russian Prison Tattoos: Codes of Authority, Domination and Struggle Alix Lambert, ISBN 0-7643-1764-4
The Mark of Cain (2000), film on Russian criminal tattoos; DVD, ASIN B0011UBDV8
Categories: Gangs | TattooingHidden categories: Articles lacking in-text citations from February 2009 | All articles lacking in-text citations | Articles needing additional references from December 2006 | All articles needing additional references