Ex-convicts get help to erase their gangster past

A prison inmate getting his tattoo removed at Changi Prison Complex.
A prison inmate getting his tattoo removed at Changi Prison Complex. PHOTO: ST FILE

More than 430 prisoners have had their tattoos removed while in jail, in an effort to help them leave their gangster past behind them.

In 2009, medical equipment distributor GiGATT International Marketing leased a $120,000 laser tattoo-removal machine to the Singapore Prison Service (SPS).

It also approached doctors trained to remove tattoos to volunteer their services. About 30 doctors have volunteered or are still involved in the initiative, which is spearheaded by GiGATT and the SPS.

GiGATT executive director Jayson Tan said that the initiative is to help rehabilitate inmates jailed for gang-related offences, to let them dissociate themselves from gangsterism. He added: "Many times, the tattoos reflect negatively on the inmates' background and cause them to be shunned by potential employers."

The tattoos removed include designs associated with gangs, which can be numbers, words, animal totems or tribal designs, he said. The tattoo removal is free for those who sign up for it.

Besides prisons, other places are also providing tattoo-removal services to those who need them.

For example, the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association has tied up with the National Skin Centre to offer former prisoners a subsidy of up to 90 per cent of the fees for tattoo removal.

Theresa Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2017, with the headline 'Ex-convicts get help to erase their gangster past'. Print Edition | Subscribe