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Prison Tattoos and Their Meanings

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What Is a Prison Tattoo?

Prison tattooing is the practice of “getting inked” while behind bars. Some prisoners do so to affirm and convey gang membership, indicate their rank in that gang, or display their ability to endure pain. Some choose designs that symbolize their time inside. A tattoo can also be a sign or code to display their crimes on their skin for all to see.

Because tattooing is not legal in US prisons, inmates don't have access to the proper equipment or supplies. They invent other methods and devices from the materials at hand, things like paper clips, staples, mechanical pencils, ballpoint pens, and other random spare parts. They also improvise their ink by taking it from pens or making it with ingredients like melted rubber, plastic, Styrofoam, soot, and shampoo.

Lack of equipment and sterile conditions can lead to health risks like infection or disease (including hepatitis, HIV, tetanus, and many others). This is why prison tattoos look rougher than professional ones and represent an additional level of danger and risk.

Tattoos made in the prison style are done with only black ink and have dark outlines with little or no interior detail or shading.

Recently, the stick 'n' poke method of do-it-yourself tattooing has become a fad, but this style of self-decoration has been happening in prisons all over the world for over a century.

Below, you'll find information about various US gangs' tattoos and the interpretations of other common prison ink designs.

Mexican Mafia Tattoos and Their Meanings

The Sureños

The Sureños, or southern Mexican Mafia, originated in Los Angeles, a city notorious for its gang activity. The gang identifies itself through the colors blue and gray (which are also the colors of the L.A. Dodgers and Duke University). The Sureños are often highly visible by their body art.

What does a tattoo of the number 13 mean?

The Sureños particularly love the number 13 and display it in different styles. They may use Arabic, Roman, or even Aztec numbers.

The 13th letter of the alphabet is the letter 'M,' which stands for Mexican Mafia. This is also expressed as 'EME' (pronounced “emmy”), and therefore the letters EME or eMe may be tattooed somewhere on the body, particularly the upper arm.

The letters MM may also be used.

What does a tattoo of three dots mean?

The three dots are also closely associated with the Sureños. They are frequently seen on gang members' faces. They sometimes signify a high rank in the gang. Usually, it is only people who have gone to prison who will have the three dots on their face. The dots might also represent the words “mi vida loca,” which means “my crazy life.”

The Norteños

The Norteños are the northern group of the Mexican Mafia. The general dividing line between the northern and southern mafias is Bakersfield, California. The Norteños are the enemies of the Sureños. They call themselves Nuestra Familia (Our Family) or use letters to indicate gang allegiance.

What does a tattoo of the number 14 mean?

For the Norteños, the number 14 is significant. The 14th letter of the alphabet is the letter 'N' for Norteños. They also use variations of this number in Arabic, Roman, or Aztec notation.

What does a tattoo of the letters “MS” mean?

The Norteños use many abbreviations. MS may stand for Mara Salvatrucha or mi sueño or any kind of Spanish phrase, so be careful not to have those initials tattooed on your body if you can avoid it.

The Number 13 Tattoo

  • 13
  • X3
  • XIII
  • Tres Puntos (three dots)
  • Any other version of the number 13
  • 213 (the area code for Los Angeles)
  • La Eme (M is the 13th letter of the alphabet)
  • L.A. (L is the 12th letter in the alphabet and A is the first, which add up to 13)

Mexican Gang-Associated Words, Phrases, and Acronyms

  • MF - Mi Familia (My Family)
  • MVL - Mi Vida Loca (My Crazy Life)
  • MS - Mara Salvatrucha (a Salvadoran Gang)
  • NF or LNF - La Nuestra Familia (Our Family)
  • Catorce - 14 in Spanish
  • Trece - 13 in Spanish
Teardrop tattoos

Teardrop tattoos

Teardrop Tattoos

Getting inked on the face or hands is a serious step, as getting one there marks you for all the world to see. There are few people willing to go through life with a “brand” on their faces, especially one that marks them as a criminal. In prisons and jailhouses, the face and hand tattoos are the most telling of all.

What does a teardrop tattoo mean?

Teardrops have many meanings to the wearer. They also mean different things to the people looking at the tatts. The meaning of a teardrop is very personal and may or may not mean the same thing to everyone: This is what makes it a dangerous design choice.

  • Some say the teardrop is a sign of a killer. The number of teardrops indicates how many “kills” the wearer has committed.
  • It may also signify a memorial for a gang member who was killed in action, so to speak. Sometimes women will put a teardrop on their face if their man has died or gone to prison.
  • Teardrops on the left side of the face can mean something different from teardrops on the right. Only the wearer knows for sure what it means.
  • Teardrops can be filled in, half-filled in, or empty. An empty teardrop might signify an attempted murder. It might also mean that one of the inmate’s friends was murdered, and they want revenge. Each of these designs has its meaning to the wearer.

The teardrop has been made popular by rappers and other celebrities, but it means something dead serious in prison. The best advice for anyone considering one would be to consult an experienced artist before getting any kind of facial or hand tattoo. Some artists refuse to put tattoos on the face or hands, for good reasons, which you should know about.


The Aryan Brotherhood

What does an “AB” tattoo mean?

The Aryan Brotherhood (AB) is a tight gang of white supremacists. These guys are neo-Nazis who strongly believe in the superiority of the white race. Hitler is their hero, and they do not acknowledge the rights of other races, believing that non-whites are only useful as slaves. These guys are deranged and dangerous. As a result, if you get an “AB” tattoo, you may provoke both Black and Mexican gangs.

Can anyone get an AB tattoo?

The Aryan Brotherhood is very protective of its members. The AB design is not allowed on a non-member under any circumstances. The only way to obtain membership is by the “blood in/blood out” method. In other words, you must kill an AB target to “make your bones” and you must be voted in unanimously. The only way out is by your death.

If you are white, you may choose to associate with the AB and receive protection while in prison, but the tattoo is reserved for true members.

The AB usually support themselves through drug trafficking, but they are not limited to any specific activity and will readily engage in nearly any kind of crime. These guys are ruthless and unless you are one of them, it is certainly best to avoid any design that has Irish or German associations. Even Norse Gods may be a new style for the AB.

Other tattoos that represent white supremacists:

Don't use the numbers 666 or the Gothic letters “AB.” A swastika or Nazi symbol is also a bad idea. The number 1488 (or the numbers 14 or 88) is often displayed on white supremacists. This is a reference to the 14 words in the quote by Nazi leader David Lane: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White Children.” The 88 refers to the 8th letter of the alphabet twice, or HH, or “Heil Hitler.” Typically, these tattoos can be found anywhere on the body.

Celtic knots are probably all right, although there is no way of knowing whether the AB will adopt them.

Black Guerilla Family

Black Guerilla Family

The Black Guerrilla Family

The Black Guerrilla Family consists of many groups. They are politically oriented and fight for equality. The Black Guerrilla Family became a force to be reckoned with in 1966 during the Civil Rights Movement. Black people organized into many organizations including the Symbionese Liberation Army, the Black Liberation Army, the Weather Underground, United Blood Nation, Black Family, Black Vanguard, Black Mafia, and others.

They have anti-government views which cause problems for prison administrators. The Black Guerrilla Family is close-knit and can be very dangerous. Be careful with tattoos that have the number 276 in them. Furthermore, avoid marking yourself with an area code that designates what part of the country you are from.

They may associate with almost all gangs except the Aryan Brotherhood, but will sometimes try to work with the AB if it is mutually agreeable and beneficial. A large segment of the prison and jailhouse population is Black and Hispanic, so they generally outnumber and oppose the AB. For this reason, the Aryan Brotherhood has toned down their tattoos to blend in with the general population while incarcerated.

Black Gang Tattoos

Black gang tattoos include many symbols associated with prisons and fighting for the “cause.”

  • Chains
  • Jungle animals
  • Sign language
  • Numbers (like 276)
  • Phone area codes
  • Locks, keys, and keyholes
  • Guns, knives, artillery, weapons
  • Initials of specific gangs, e.g., BGF for Black Guerrilla Family

Other Gangs and Their Tattoos

The Texas Syndicate: A gang of Texans incarcerated in California started this group. They are closely related to the Aryan Brotherhood and known for their extreme violence and a special “TS” marking that they rarely use.

The 18th St. Gang, out of the West Side of Los Angeles, was by second-generation Mexican immigrants. This group has become national and now includes non-Hispanic members. They may have “18th Street,” “XV3,” “XVIII,” “666” (which equals 18), or “Dieciocho" (eighteen).

The Latin Kings out of Chicago are known for their three-point and five-point crowns and their five-point stars. They begin their gang names with “king,” as in King Carlos or King Beto, etc. They are a Latino gang, and their slogan is “amor del rey” (ADR) or love of the king.

Female Gangs are still in the making. Most women are attached one way or another to a male gang and may have the same tattoos, though they aren't considered true members. Their ranks are increasing, however, and all-girl gangs are beginning to show up in the prison population.

Asian Gangs have existed for many years, some transplanted from an originating country. There are the Triads, Tongs, Yakuza, and Boryokudan. They are into home-invasion-type crimes and car theft, and they will often team up for protection in jail. These gangs have many names and many tattoos. It is probably best to avoid Chinese or Japanese characters unless you are quite certain what they mean and that they don't signify gang affiliation.

Native American Gangs have formed all over the country in response to the other gangs crowding in on them. Native Americans may be associated with outlaw biker gangs. They do tend to protect Native American interests in and out of prison. At best, these gangs help protect Native Americans. At worst, they are a collection of teenagers who indulge in crime, drugs, and violence. Native American tattoos are all considered sacred and must be earned. As long as you don't go overboard with Native American symbols or have them put on your face and hands, you should be safe enough.

Outlaw Biker Gangs should be avoided at all costs. These gangs are very violent and protective of their members. They have many requirements for club membership. Skull tattoos are common, as are motorcycles, leather items, and weapons. They prefer to use patches sewn into their leather “cuts.” However, they do love to get inked —a lot.

Dead Man Inc. (DMI) is a mainly white prison gang with members in many correctional facilities throughout the US.

Dead Man Inc. (DMI) is a mainly white prison gang with members in many correctional facilities throughout the US.

Other Common Prison Tattoos

  • Spiderwebs, often seen on the elbow, usually represent a long time in prison— so long the wearer is covered in cobwebs. This design represents how the wearer is stuck behind bars like a fly in a spiderweb. (If you see a multicolored web, it’s probably not a real prison tattoo; in jail, there is no access to colored ink.)
  • A cross on the chest, especially in Russian prisons, represents a “prince of thieves,” which is the highest rank a convict can achieve. This sign is reserved for the mob's kingpins.
  • Five dots is an international design that represents time done in prison. Also known as the “quincunx”, four dots are placed where the corners of a square might be to represent four walls, and the fifth dot in the center to represent the inmate.
  • A clock without hands is, fairly obviously, a symbol of “doing time.” Occasionally, it's inked on the wrist like a wristwatch, other times elsewhere and shaped like a pocket watch, a wall clock, or a grandfather clock. The fact that the clock has no hands represents how time stands still or loses meaning when you're “inside.”
  • Playing cards are often used to indicate how life is a gamble and the criminal who's caught has been dealt a bad hand.
  • EWMN: Sometimes found inked on knuckles, these letters stand for “evil, wicked, mean, and nasty” and are worn by criminals who revel in their crimes.
  • A.C.A.B.: This acronym is often found on British inmates and stands for “all cops are bastards.”

Be Careful Getting a Tattoo

It's your responsibility to know ahead of time what the meanings of your tatts are. Should you get the wrong kind and end up in jail, you may have to pay for that tattoo with your life.

Tattoos are often a crucial way for prison gangs to mark membership. If you are arrested, gang members will either protect you as one of their own or target you if they think you're posing as one of them. Only true members are allowed to have certain designs, and if you are not qualified, they will burn it off your skin or worse. They will not use anesthesia either, so be very, careful!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: On a prison tattoo, what does "AFFA" stand for?

Answer: According to one source, it is a Hell's Angel tatt that means Angel Forever, Forever Angel.

Question: What does a cross tattoo on the forearm mean in prison?

Answer: It probably has some religious significance to the wearer.

Question: What do seven five-point stars represent in prison tattoos?

Answer: Whatever the wearer wants it to mean. It could possibly be representative of the Pleiades star constellation, otherwise known as the seven sisters.

© 2012 Lela

Comments? I tried to research this theme very seriously. If I need corrections, please let me know.

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on April 08, 2020:

Comment From: Mianltd780 -

"Hello, let's call this constructive criticism. I spent many of my early years as a tattoo artist and I respect your intentions for creating that tattoo hub you wrote. Know is when I tell you the truth. Due to the colossal amount of misinformation contained in that hub of verbal diarrhea you called a hub should be taken down. Guaranteed it's causing more problems for people than it is answering anyone's questions. It's a complete in justice to the world of tattooing. Filling your readers with unecessary fear of getting a tattoo. Almost all of your definitions are wrong or just random facts from how ever many different sources you read or should I say barely scanned over before you wrote that hub. Everyone who gets tattooed has their own reasons for doing so. Yes some of the reasons may be club or gang related, but then there's the majority of the people getting tattooed who are not asociated or affiliated with or members of clubs or gangs that get tattooed because they just plain and simply like getting tattooed. Thoughts of getting beaten up or killed by gang or club members never, not in a million years crosses their mind before getting tattooed. The whole hub should be taken down and rewritten properly, you know what I mean. You should actually research gang tattoos and also prison tattoos. Because they are two different subjects. Yes a lot of them cross over but when broken down are different as a whole. Society in general shits all over tattooing enough as it is so it doesn't need another misinformed person spreading more misinformation to the masses."

Yes! please do your research if you are going to get a tattoo!

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on May 07, 2018:

Just do a bit at a time and you will accomplish a lot.

Oscar Ortiz from Edinburg, TX on May 07, 2018:

I sure would, I am currently working on it but I am at work at this moment so when I have the time to do it I would for sure get on it. Thank you.

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on May 07, 2018:

Oscar, could you write a hub on some of the stories? I would love to hear them, and I'm sure others would too. Thanks for commenting.

Oscar Ortiz from Edinburg, TX on May 07, 2018:

Prison tattoos have a deep meaning, a lot of people don't understand that. Its much more than what others think, its a story about our life, the story behind PRISON TATOOS its an interesting story and subject.

Cuurly on December 12, 2016:

A lot of this article is very inaccurate. If you would like some information on updating and correcting this, I would be glad to help.

roob on March 15, 2016:

mysticalmoon don't get mad at the writer, take it up with the gangsters... but if you want, get these tats and walk the streets lol!! Btw I have never seen a native american with teardrops on his eyes, spiderweb on his elbow, three dots, or a swastika!!

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on September 04, 2015:

Yes, the tattoo industry is trying to get organized about this too.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on September 04, 2015:

wow, there are deep story behind each prisoner tatoos

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on May 26, 2015:

Lee, I'm not an expert by any means, so keep researching! and thanks!

Lee Cloak on May 26, 2015:

A seriously interesting and educational hub, in Ireland over the last few years we've been getting an unbelievable amount of U.S. prison documentarys and because I have a few Army mistake tattoos I've been wondering what the various gang tats meant, great hub, thanks for sharing, voted up, Lee

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on May 23, 2015:

I cannot advise you on getting a tatto, rip. Perhaps you could check with your local law enforcement office? Ask for someone who knows about gang tatts.

But just for personal reasons, i see no reason not to get one. Should you venture into possible gang areas, you could cover it up with makeup or clothing.

RipLaCapone on May 23, 2015:

One question I'm planning on getting an aztec indian face tattoo but I'm in no gang, is this a good or bad choice I'm making ?

Cynthia Zirkwitz from Vancouver Island, Canada on December 28, 2014:

Interesting hub that has spawned a lot of equally intriguing commentary. I've watched my husband try to cover his old tat, remove it himself with various DIY methods, and finally just let it all hang out. Nothing like being 65 years old with something on your arm that you got engraved there when you were a heart-broken, drunk 17. I'm glad he didn't have any of the possible dangerous markings...

Debra Allen from West Virginia on August 23, 2014:

Well this is an excellent hub. The girl that is in the prison system has a teardrop filled in on her face. She also has a rather large red bull that starts just below her chin and covers the full front of her neck. Oh yes we discussed that. That is for life and not a single business that I know of that she would have been part of would hire her with that.

I have talked with many young people and they just do not realize the change and implications that these permanent marks will have in the future.

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on August 23, 2014:

Hi shirleymax - I do appreciated your info! I didn't go into prisons to interview anyone or check with actual gang members. But I did want to give some sort of advice here for people wanting a tattoo, but do not have a clue as to what some tatts could mean to other people.

It's one of my most popular hubs, so people do want to know!

I think they will take your advice along with mine to make a decision on what kind of tattoo to get or not get.


shirleymax on August 23, 2014:

A lot of this info is dead wrong, also some of the comments such as "the Latinos were eyeing my clover at the supermarket" are just ridiculous. No gang member is going to have an issue with a straight citizen having a clover or similar tattoo if it is obvious you not 'repping'. Also regarding clover or shamrock tatoos: they are completely fine to have both inside and outside the system. Almost every irish guy in prison has a shamrock or four leaf clover. It's the putting of the three 6's or the 'AB' that would cause an issue. Anyway if you're a law abiding citizen you can pretty much get whatever you want as long as its not blatant gang related. 13's, shamrocks, all that stuffs fine and even in the system its not an issue. Also in the majority of state systems non AB white guys commonly have swatstikas, the federal system is where youde find problems with that. Basically gang memebers arent going to have issues with a citizen getting any tattoo within reason if you're clearly not a gangbanger or are purposely getting a gang related tattoo. I say all of this from experience from being in a state supermax.

Bunny Sly on July 28, 2014:

worse than anyone with a tattoo a gangster with no tats.

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on June 22, 2014:

Thank you restedmemory. Nice handle, BTW. Sometimes I feel like it's not just my memories that are rusty.

David Hamilton from Lexington, KY on June 22, 2014:

Very interesting article. I have seen many of these tattoos but never knew the significance, exactly. Well done. Upvoted

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on April 29, 2014:

Hey diogenes! Thank you for the kind words! Maybe his real Indian name is Mysticalbull? Stolen tattoos? I didn't know about those.

diogenes from UK and Mexico on April 29, 2014:

To Mysticalmoon. You are in no position to tell Austinstar her work is a "bunch of bull," especially when we haven't seen hub one from you yet. 'Star is one of our most respected writers: you, in contrast, are unknown. You'll get no respect nor glory by sending barbed comments (your comment was quite reasonable and stood alone without the nasty opinion). So think about what I have said (been on here 4 years and 400 hubs) and get to work yourself, meanwhile apologising to Austinstar who was most dignified and restrained in her reply to your snide comment.


Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on April 28, 2014:

Mysticalmoon - I wrote this hub to hopefully clue in some people who did not have prior knowledge of gang tatts and their meanings. You are correct that Native cultures all over the world have been tattooing for centuries. Sometimes it's symbolic, sometimes it means something personal.

Pandora The Scribbler from Idaho Falls, ID on April 28, 2014:

What a bunch of BULL. Native Americans have been tattooing for hundreds of years and some of those tattoo designs were stolen from them. When people get a tattoo its because they choice to speak their minds. They know what they are getting and they are going to get it no matter what the "price" is.

Lynsey Hart from Lanarkshire on April 28, 2014:

Great hub, I learned a lot! I don't think I'd ever have any of the gang tattoos done "accidentally" so feel quite safe about that lol! I clicked on this hub hoping none of my own ink had an unknown meaning! :-)

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on February 10, 2014:

Interesting. I have not heard of that one!

Sherry Hewins from Sierra Foothills, CA on February 10, 2014:

When I was young I knew quite a few people who had tattoos of 13. None of them were gang membere as far as I know. For them it did stand for the letter M, but it meant Marijuana. Those people would be in their 60s or 70s today.

tpence on January 24, 2014:

from bubbling to hubbing i liked your insight..

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on December 26, 2013:

eh-meh, emmy - sounds the same to me.

Deyla on December 26, 2013:

You're wrong on pronounciation. Le eme is pronounced eh-meh. Not emmy.

PandaAEG on October 28, 2013:

Very interesting! I've heard of the teardrop one but the others are new to me. It's definitely good to read before thinking about tattoos, you don't want to get in trouble for something that you didn't even intend to do!

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on October 25, 2013:

Well, mischief, first of all, I'm not a 'sir', I am a female.

Second of all, sorry if you feel you are wasting any part of your life.

Third, we all have our comfort zones whatever they may be - precious or otherwise.

Fourth - I agree that life is to be lived and boundaries are to be pushed.

Fifth - Calling someone a 'retard' doesn't make it so.

mischief on October 25, 2013:

You sir are a complete retard, and that was 5 minutes of my life completely wasted by reading of some suburbanites that are to scared to do anything with their life except criticize anything outside of your precious comfort zone. You only have one life. Live it and push the boundaries

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on September 11, 2013:

Thanks, glad to be of service:-)

Sarah Carlsley from Minnesota on September 11, 2013:

Very interesting. I didn't know any of this. I feel much smarter now!

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on July 12, 2013:

The military does have a tattoo code. Especially the special forces branches. Rangers, Seals, Marine Recons and Air Forces all have recognizable specialty tatts. I should do a hub on those! Of course, regular Navy, Army, Marines and Air Force have tatts too.

I've never heard of tatts on the rims of ears. Interesting. My niece just got the little upper part of her ear pierced which I thought was rather distinctive.

No, I don't think military tattoos are gang related as we think of gangs anyway. Street gangs do not usually endorse the military, although some of them do.

marion langley from The Study on July 12, 2013:

Very interesting. A friend of mine was called into jury duty once and she said the guy being tried had tattoos along the rims of his ears...wonder what group he was with. I occasionally think about getting husband's army rank...didn't hear of any military symbols being gang

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on May 21, 2013:

I think you may be safe. How is life in the DR? People are now saying that it is a great place for retirement.

Gringo on May 21, 2013:

About the Latin Kings

Is t Dangerous to have a crown tattoo and live in the Dominican Republic?

The crown is not related to the Kings, and i do not have Latin blood, i am just a simple guy from Holland.

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on April 24, 2013:

Just be aware that someone may see the tattoo and think you are part of a gang.

joe on April 24, 2013:

I have the aztec 13 tattoo and I havend bean in jail I goted because I liked it...

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on February 17, 2013:

Certain tattoos seem to live forever. It could be this is the reason for getting the tattoo. But life has a way of changing, so always choose carefully when getting a tattoo.

lady clown ktown 26 on February 17, 2013:

you got good info, and i think folks out there should watch out for certain symbols n desgins. i ave kids now so no longer " gang bang" or hang out w my girls or boys. when i saw someone with a tatt that related any rival gang (flake) we made sure they understood not to come again. its good you are letting the world know not to get the wrong tattoo

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on January 22, 2013:

Thanks for clueing us in! We sure don't want to get the wrong tattoos. That could be a disaster.

JanMaklak from Canada on January 22, 2013:

Here are some other ones

81 - letter equivalents are HA for Hells Angels

HAFFHA Hells Angels Forever, Forever Hells Angesl

There are some other ones that I have heard of but out of respect for people here and the hells angels I won't print them.

Sean on December 12, 2012:

The angels are far from gone... They are world wide,

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on November 15, 2012:

solovino, not sure what you mean. Are you saying that people should not be forewarned about getting certain tattoos? I mean the tatts are usually out there for everyone to see. I'm not disclosing any secrets as far as I know.

solovino213 on November 15, 2012:

you shouldn't begiving up game

Southernmapart on October 01, 2012:

Interesting hub.

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on October 01, 2012:

Definitely choose carefully!

Linda Cassini from Las Vegas NV on October 01, 2012:

To me Tattoos are hieroglyphics to ones in the book of ones life..choose carefully..:)

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on September 24, 2012:

Hmmm, I'll look into that one. I thought the H.A. were more or less gone from the scene.

Jon on September 24, 2012:

One gang tattoo that has yet to be mentioned is 666, one of the two support numbers used by the Hells Angels motorcycle club along with the number 81, particularly is those tattoos are in red ink.

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on September 23, 2012:

Thank you for the update, king speedy. It sounds as though you know, and I welcome the info. Gracious por la verdad.

king speedy on September 23, 2012:

Latin kings and queens also have an al seeing eye. We have many numerous tattoos and identifying makrs. Also for those that are not aware Latin Kings can also be any type of race. Indian. Cuban. Mexican. Puerto Rican. Are o ly the main roots of the oppressed people. If Our Nation comes to u and asks you if u want to be down and your white or black they see mings and queens in the way u carry yourself and conduct your life. As a King I speak from expierence and when puttin in work it could simply mean baby sitting for one of the bros or sisters. It all depends on what your brothers say.

Words from King Speedy

Holland Mi

Amor De Rey

Also adr means remember every spanish it translates to "king love"

Thanks for all your recognization butifelt if u were to speak upon my nation u must speak truth.

In order to speak truth u must know truth. And now u know.

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on September 01, 2012:

Yep, it was a crazy childhood thing, right?

j. morales on September 01, 2012:

I always wondered what the three dots on my Dad's hand meant! Thanks for the info.

ptosis from Arizona on June 13, 2012:

Good hub on tatts. (don't have any myself) -

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on April 19, 2012:

Tribal tattoos are also filled with meaning. I would like to look into those someday.

Judi Brown from UK on April 19, 2012:

Very interesting hub, had no idea that tattoos could carry these meanings.

PlasmaBeam from Carlsbad, CA on March 30, 2012:

Mob raised, government made... Zero tats!

Jim Higgins from Eugene, Oregon on March 16, 2012:

A really interesting Hub! I have heard of these "meaningful" tatts, and have seen a lot of them on guys in front of me at the 7-11. I have wondered what they mean for a long time so will bookmark this Hub for reference. Thanks for writing it!

Shiningstar4u2c from Hilton Head Island on March 12, 2012:

Great and Informative Hub. it may save some ones life one day!

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on February 27, 2012:

That might get their attention. So are you feeling better?

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on February 27, 2012:

Yeah lol - or maybe I'll put in in question form on the graffiti wall downtown? Like a forum post? Lol

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on February 27, 2012:

whadaya do, send them a polite email and ask if they'll change their name? LOL

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on February 27, 2012:

Hey isn't that crazy - I'm being rewarded for keeping my mouth shut I think!! LOL LOL

I was sick for the last couple days - viral or Dave said iI was saying crazy stuff in my sleep last night too:) haha!

I think it is crips! Lol. Crisps ...crypts would be better I'm gonna see if they will change it!

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on February 21, 2012:

Hey, you beat my hubscore for today!

Question? - Are they called the 'crypts' or the 'crips'? I'm not sure. But I like the name 'saddle tramps'.

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on February 21, 2012:

Way cool hub! You know how much I hate tats:) lol lol

In St. Louis - they use 314 - we also have the bloods, crypts, saddle tramps (biker gang) and lots of AB and skinheads.

Personally I like most tattoos - as body art - but I don't like to see them used as a methiod of intimidation as they do for gangs. That's just my opinion though....I LOVED the info here - voted up and all that!

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on February 17, 2012:

Always best to avoid face and hand tattoos. The exceptions are makeup tattooing like eyeliner and "ring" tattoos on fingers which can be quite beautiful.

Definitely avoid teardrops and initials. The ink crowd is different for sure.

Om Paramapoonya on February 17, 2012:

What an interesting hub! I always wondered what the teardrop tattoo symbolized. It's not that I wanted to get one, though. My face is the very last place I would consider putting a tattoo on. Rated up and intersting!

AkaiMiko on February 15, 2012:

Wow!! This is just crazy, it's getting to be so a person can't have a genuine fondness for the number 13 or have their initials "A.B." or a vicious looking tiger on their bodies or something...what a world lol.

The Finance Hub from Portland, Oregon on February 15, 2012:

Wow what an interesting hub on an interesting subject. I never knew prison tats could have so much meaning behind them good or bad! Voted up and interesting and I hope you enjoy my hubs as well!

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on February 15, 2012:

No, Lady T - I didn't find your comments offensive at all. Trust me, I will say so if I do or just disallow the comment. I respect any contributing info, thanks!

Bob, I don't know what's going on at the Walls unit anymore since I no longer live in Huntsville. I had a friend that was in the system for 5-10, but he's out now and living in Maine. The only time I went inside was when I applied for a job there in the prison infirmary and I was a frequent visitor to the public relations dept. of TDC. I wrote for the college newspaper and did articles about the prison. Went to a couple of Execution parties and generally tried to avoid that part of town. On the outside, Huntsville is a pretty nice place to live.

diogenes on February 15, 2012:

Yeah, Star. You walk small in Walls. Many baddies waiting this that and the other there.

I only spent a couple of days there fortunately


Lady Tenaz on February 15, 2012:

I hope you didn't think I meant anything rude by my comments, I was just trying to give you a more clear understanding about some of the tats you spoke of. And I agree, no one should get those sort of tattoos, period. :-)

Motown2Chitown on February 15, 2012:

This hub is really cool and incredibly informative, Austin. I watch a ton of prison shows and they concentrate a lot on tats, as you might expect. I'm not opposed to tats at all, but I agree with you - get it where the majority of folks won't see them or know what they mean and be ready to explain/defend them if someone asks. Me? I'm plain white, no ink. Maybe uninteresting, but safe - for the most part.

Again, really cool hub.

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on February 15, 2012:

It's nice to know that some Texas prisons are non-threatening. All of the ones I visited seemed to be pretty quiet. I thought it was pretty tense when I walked across the yard at the Walls unit, but that was mostly me I think. The Walls unit is where most prisoners used to go just before being released.

The Texas Syndicate is even more radical than the AB if that's possible. Since you weren't from Texas and you were a short termer, that may have been why they never bothered with you, Bob. Most of the bad gangs tend to be 'lifers' because they have nothing left to lose.

Lady T - I would never get a tattoo of any of the signs and symbols of the L.A. gangs. (Well any other for that matter). The purpose of the hub is to inform people that want tattoos that some of them are very dangerous tatts to have! Even butterfly tatts are associated with some gangs. It's hard to know what will offend some people.

So, if you want a tattoo, it's a good idea to have it placed where most people can't see it. This will help protect you in daily life, but not in prison where all of you tends to be exposed at one time or another.

diogenes from UK and Mexico on February 15, 2012:

Great hub on a very complex subject, AS. I "lived the dream," as you know, but anything I knew is long forgotten. Teardrops are mainly bullshit, although sneaky murder can earn you one.

The AB won't protect non AB members, or didn't when I was in HV. It depends what joint you're in as to which group has supremacy, I was in Wynne, which is a non-threatening place in general.


Lady Tenaz on February 15, 2012:

also, the three dots stand for "mi vida loca" and anyone can get that tatted on them. Almost everyone I have ever known growing up had it tattooed on their hands. It's a coming of age thing that a lot of chicanos/chicanas do if they grow up in a neighborhood whether they are affiliated in a gang or not.

Christopher Antony Meade from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom on February 15, 2012:

That was a very well researched hub. Very interesting. I haven't got any tatoos. I don't think I will ever get one now. I don't want to offend the wrong people. Life is too precious for that.

Lady_Tenaz on February 14, 2012:

Let me tell you, if you have a Trese' (13) on your body before you get locked up you are in a heap of trouble. even if you just have your city on your body or your neighborhood...You have to "put in work" to get those tats...and when I say "put in work" you figure that out. They are but soldiers in their ranking system, especially in the Pen. So if they tell you to "put in work" to earn their tats then that is what needs to be done. I don't agree with any of that lifestyle but I grew up engulfed in it and I know all about the hood and jailhouse tats.... and by the way L.A. is not 13-

13 stands for "M" plain and simple. L.A. tattoos are never just 13- but can be the area codes (ex; 213).

@ DRBJ- even 18 isn't good either, if you are in L.A. (ex; 18th st. XVIII)....LOL

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on February 14, 2012:

Just put your checking account number over that 13, no one will ever know, drbj.

drbj and sherry from south Florida on February 14, 2012:

Dang, Lela, I knew I should not have tattooed that big number 13 all over my body. Maybe I can find a tattoo artist who can change it to number 18.

Great research on a rather esoteric subject.

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on February 14, 2012:

Hi Druid! Haven't seen you in a while. I have ordered Hangover II and can't wait to see it. If it is half as hilarious as the original I know I will like it.

Hi Alastar! Yes, you don't want to be confused with the AB, that's for sure. Why they chose a 3 leaf clover, I will never know. Just being Irish or of Irish descent, doesn't make you a candidate for the Aryan Brotherhood. I think the Ace of Clubs, which looks somewhat like a clover is also considered an AB tatt.

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on February 14, 2012:

Fantastic hub with a unique perspective here. Anyone considering a tat should definitely take heed. Learned about it when Latinos started eying my 4-leaf clover tat in the grocery stores. Guess they thought it might be an AB one. Really though, who would have thought. Good one Lela.

Druid Dude from West Coast on February 14, 2012:

Have you seen "Hangover II"? Good hub.