Dermatology residents at Beaumont Hospital in Farmington Hills, Michigan are working with the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation’s (DHDC) Freedom Ink program to remove tattoos of former inmates and gang members — free of cost.
For former gang member and ex-convicts, tattoos can be markers of a painful and disappointing past. Erasing tattoos can give former felons a fresh start and expand their professional opportunities as they reintegrate into society. According to DHDC’s program director, Monica Alvarado, removing the tattoos can be a lasting and transformative experience for the formerly incarcerated. “At first when you meet some of these guys, they’re speaking low and holding their heads down,” she told The Detroit News. “When the tattoos begin to fade, you can see a difference in their personality. It’s a real confidence booster for them.”
Laser tattoo removal is very expensive, and procedures can run between $200 and $500 a session. The laser breaks up the ink pigment, allowing it to be absorbed by the body and released into the lymph system. Fully removing the tattoo can take up to 16 sessions, and each session can last from five minutes to an hour per session, depending on the size of the tattoo.
As tattoos have become increasingly popular in the last couple decades, so has tattoo removal. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, 45,224 people sought out tattoo removal services in 2014, compared with 40,801 in 2011.