Young people make mistakes. One of those mistakes can be getting a tattoo or multiple tattoos. Lives change, however, and often tattoos can keep young people in a place where they just don’t want or need to be. The tattoo could be gang insignia, an old boyfriend or girlfriend’s name, wanna-be gang symbos or other destructive body markings. Tattoos can cause problems in future relationships, can keep one from productive employment, or brand a person as a gang member.  Some tattoos just look trashy.





Members of the Prince William County Department of Social Services and those who donate their time at the Greater Prince William Community Health Center consider the Making a Change Program a huge success for those who take advantage of the program to remove this body ‘art.’ Commitment to change, however, requires a rigorous set of standards.  According to Manassas News and Messenger:


The program is a partnership between various local, state and national agencies.

Richard H. Buchholz, with Prince William County’s Gang Response Intervention Team, said it takes at least 10 visits to the clinic before tattoos are completely gone.

He added the participants have to work to be admitted into the program.

Participants must demonstrate their commitment to leaving the gang and not have been involved with any gang activity for at least six months before their first treatment, said Buchholz.

They can’t rack up any new criminal charges, they must be enrolled in school with a good attendance record or have a job or working on getting one if they are no longer in school.

They can’t use alcohol and must be drug-free when they apply to be considered for the MAC program, and if on parole, must be in compliance with all the rules of the their probation.

And they also must compete 50 hours of community service before they even think about attending their first clinical session.

Many of the participants at a recent removal clinic had three dots tattooed into their skin.

Brian L. Coe, with the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said the dots signify “living the crazy life” and are common among those in the gang culture.


Hopefully, many young people who have gotten involved with destructive life choices will take advantage of this program and turn themselves around. The change will not be easy. Periodically, our supervisors will donate discretionary funds to this cause. Good for them. I hope all 8 of them will help out with this program.


Helping young people break destructive patterns and behaviors in their life saves us all money in the long run. Getting rid of body marks that tie a young person to unwise life styles seems to be a step in the right direction.

That’s my point of view.  What do our contributors think?  Is this program worthwhile or should the young people just have to live with their decision?  Is there a hidden cost we do not know about?  How about …gasp!..illegal alien youth taking advantage of this program?  Are they getting something that only  American citizens and legal residents should be entitled to?







25 Thoughts to “Making a Change Program Helps Remove Gang Tattoos”

  1. Alanna

    I don’t think public funds should be used for this program. It should come completely from private donations. There are so many other worthy charities out there with innocent victims that could also use funding. For me, this is an instance where someone has made a bad choice by getting tattooed in the first place and now they have to accept the consequences. Give the money to kids with incurable cancer first, they are more deserving. Again, great idea for a charity program but not one that I would support.

  2. Lafayette

    I’m with Alanna on this one. Not one red cent of public funds should be spent on tattoo removal. These people CHOSE to get a tattoo. I know we all make mistakes when we are young, but that does NOT mean the public should pay for one’s dumb mistakes. I was absolutely sickened when I heard supervisors donating their discrectionary funds for such a program. The money could so be better spent on a bus for the seniors to get to and from activities at the senior centers or even better yet, reopen the Manassas Senior Day Care Program.

    I have a nephew that has his arms “sleeved”. Sleeved means the arm is completely covered with ink. He’s now 30 and thinking the tattoos weren’t the smartest idea he’d had. However, he always knew and understood the ink on his body was permanent. He’s not comfortable with the look as he’s matured in years.

    I really can’t stand to hear anyone complain, whine, and/or cry about their tattoos. They made a piss poor decision and public funds should NOT cover or help with the costs of having tattoos removed.

  3. Rick Bentley

    Well I diosagree with you two. This sounds like a good use of public funds to me. This isn’t about just removing stupid tattoos, it’s about fighting gangs.

  4. Lafayette

    Rick, I think there are better ways to fight gangs than tattoo removal. I don’t think the vast majority of people know a gang tattoo from any other kind of tattoo. I would prefer to see the money spent on fighting gangs in other ways. I would support an effort to educate the most vulnerablr for gang recruitment. I think there should be proactive/aggressive program in place for educating the middle school aged students of the evils of gangs, and how to avoid the temptation to join gangs, and the signs of gang activity, etc..

  5. Rick Bentley

    I favor all of that. But most especially, i favor deportation of any and all illegal aliens. That will make a huge difference in the gang problem.

  6. Rick Bentley

    I think we need to acknowledge that there are a LOT of young Latino men walking around with gang ink on their arms. I see them in restaurants, spermarkets, stores, and many other places. At that point they’re not gang involved and to remove that ink would be a plus for a society that does not endorse and condone gang activity.

  7. Lafayette

    Rick, deportation is the best option. However, let’s face it..that’s not always happening. I see the same thing you do Rick, believe me. I see your point, but I still would rather see public funds spent in other ways. I would support public funds being spent on gang tagging removal of those that seem to get their fences hit on a regular basis. The house on the corner of Lomond Dr. & Ashland Ave. comes to mind. It it the property owner that has to eat the costs. I do know the Clean Community Council and it’s volunteers do a lot of good work removing taggings.

    We all want public funds spent in different ways. I think want the same things for our community.

  8. Moon-howler

    If a tagged fence sends a gang message, what on earth does a person walking around with gang insignia do? For want of a nail a shoe was lost. I am voting with Rick on this one.

    A person with gang tattoos, whether gang member or not is free advertising–free walking around advertising. Gang lure comes at an early age. Most people get their first tattoo when high school or middle school age, not age 22. Recruitment is often at the middle school level.

    If a kid makes a conscious decision to remove that part of their life they deserve our support. I don’t hold something a kid stupidly does at age 13 against them forever, as a general rule.

    Tattoo removal is very expensive outside of these removal programs. Most health care doesn’t cover it. If you truly support getting rid of gangs, then you support anything that gets a kid out of the grips of the gang. Remove their insignia, you have made huge headway into rehabilitating that kid.

  9. Moon-howler

    Rick, have you checked out an NBA team lately as far as tattoos go? It isn’t just young Latino men sporting tattoos.

  10. @Moon-howler
    I’m with you and Rick on this one.

    Incidentally, I’m getting another tat for my 40th b-day.


  11. Rick Bentley

    GANG tattoos.

    I don’t see a lot of caucasians wearing gang tattoos. However many African-American men are wearing them, who knows, because the comedy of tattooing becoming popular with young black men, as exemplified in the NBA (Allen iverson was the trailblazer here), is that blue ink on dark skin is illegible.

  12. Moon-howler

    I see a lot of tats on white dudes around Manassas. They don’t appear to be gang related but who knows.

  13. rod2155

    There are tons of white people with tats, they just have a tendency to keep them in places out of sight…

    …or in the cases of some of the ladies, they keep them in places you gotta be really lucky to find 😉

  14. Censored bybvbl

    I’m in favor of footing the bill for removal of visible gang tattoos – whether Aryan Nation, Hispanic gangs, or African American gangs. Not only does it remove visible advertizing for gangs but also gives someone a clean start. I’m not aware that one can “walk away” from a gang; and as long as the tat remains, it’s like a bull’s-eye on someone’s back. We, general society, want these guys (and women) to cooperate with law enforcement and “rat out” their buddies. The least we can do is offer them a chance to come clean.

  15. How do you know which tats are gang related and which are not?

  16. Moon-howler

    If you know gang signs you can tell. If you don’t you can only guess.

    Usually the more intricate designs are not gang insignia…but that is not an absolute. See if the design is more art or more communication.

  17. You Wish

    These are gangs in Chicago – the police keep track of all of the new tats that are gang related, along with hand signs, colors, graffiti, etc.

    MH, some gang tats are VERY intricate – the tats are becoming more sophisticated in order to keep the cops from catching on –

    I think this program sounds good – the individuals have to be drink/drug free AND have to do community service in order to qualify to have the tats removed. Look – I work with high school kids and know that they will do anything to be a part of something. They will get tats and then regret it. If this is a way to reduce the gang problem, then I’m all for it.

  18. You Wish

    Here’s an interesting point from the article:

    “Glenda Robles was just 17 when her friends at the time held her down and tattooed them on her hand, against her will.

    “We went to a friend’s house and had a lot to drink and then they just tattooed me,” she said.

    She said she was never officially inducted into a gang.

    Now 23, she is finishing up at a local community college and plans to transfer to George Mason University.

    She works at the volunteer clinic where the tattoos are removed and said her parents are excited to see them disappearing.

    “They won’t think I’m in a gang anymore,” said Robles.”

    She deserves an opportunity to have this removed –

  19. hello

    I agree with Alanna 100%, I don’t think a dime should go to this. These people got a tattoo and now don’t want it. Oh well… pay for it to be removed or get a tattoo over top of it.

    Weren’t people complaining left and right about how senior citizens got a bunch of their activities axed? Wouldn’t this money be better served to pay for some of those things?

  20. hello

    You Wish, you said “She deserves an opportunity to have this removed”… are you forgetting that she works at the volunteer clinic?

    Also, she reminds me of that chick who went to a tattoo parlor and got 56 stars on her face. When her dad bitched about it she said that wasn’t what she wanted and blamed the tattoo artist. I think that is what may have happened to this girl. I’ve got a tattoo or three, I don’t care how much you drink, if you don’t want one they can’t just do it.

  21. Juturna

    It is all done by donations. It was discussed at length during the FY09 budget process and came up again briefly during the FY10 discussion. I recall it clearly because, I agree. I think there may have been some discretionary money donated by a Supervisor or two in the distant past, but I am not positive on that one. We all have our opinions on supervisor discretionary funds. Mailers, tatoo removal… clubs and who can forget picture frames as Mr. Crone pointed out once!!!

  22. You Wish


    You need to read the article – she was held against down her wishes and her friends (not a tattoo parlor) did it.You are correct in that a tattoo parlor cannot tattoo if you are drunk or have been drinking. But there is a HUGE difference between someone regretting what they did (like the girl who got all of the tattoos on her face) and someone being tattooed against their will.

    I’m not forgetting it’s a volunteer clinic nor that the young woman worked there – what I’m saying is that this young woman, who was NOT in a gang, not initiated into a gang and given a gang tattoo against her wishes is someone who benefits from this. If it’s all done by donations and there is NO money coming from the tax payers, then what is the problem with it?

    Everyone cries about the gang problem, but when there is an opportunity to help out young people who want to reform their lives, now we complain about the funding for it?

  23. hello

    If it’s all by donations I don’t see a problem with it at all.

  24. Moon-howler

    Hello, the article was unclear who the various state, local and federal agencies were were sponsored the program. I agree with you about donations.

    Where I depart from some of the contributors is, I feel it is penny wise and pound foolish to crack down on gangs and grafetti and not help clean up the people who are walking around advertisements. Where does the money come from for gang task forces and community clean up?

    I suppose I still believe in rehabilitation, if the person truly wants to change.

  25. Lafayette

    Mr. Crone RIP. He also, got fired up over some flags in a couple of offices too.

Comments are closed.