They are often used as code-form and have hidden meanings. Tattooing is banned in most prisons and is therefore done in secret with makeshift tattoo machines.
Within the growing prison system, tattoos are taken equally seriously by the inmates and their guards. Tattoos made in jail have a special significance for the prisoners themselves as well as for the people tattooed on the street. There are two standard types of tattoo guns in jail, the spinner and the staff pistol.
Rough-Cut Prison Tattoos
An inmate destroys his most valuable possession, a radio, and removes the transistor. The thin copper wire is then removed and wrapped around a screw that provides an automatic relay when turned on. The occupant must then somehow acquire bristles from a wire brush from maintenance and sharpen them to provide the needle. The cylinder is made of a high-quality mechanical pencil, and the anchor rod consists of a piece of flexible pallet tape and a magnet in cent-size.
The tattoo gun is then powered by the transistor of another radio. Owning one of these tattoo "guns" is therefore quite expensive and in jail it can be difficult to get "money". Get a metal container, preferably a biscuit, and put baby oil and cotton in the can.
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You then need a flat piece of metal that can be slipped over the opening of the can without covering it. Burn the baby oil and cotton so that the smoke hits the tin and darkens it as darkly as possible. You will then scrape off the entire black powder and repeat. You may want to use a credit card or similar, as razors and other metal scrapers may leave chips in the powder.
Put your tattoo powder in a small container, I recommend a toothpaste cap, and fill the cap about halfway. Then add a few drops of clear, odorless shampoo. Thoroughly stir. Your finished ink should be the consistency of the ink of a pen or slightly thicker. To dilute your ink, add shampoo, and to thicken it, add more powder. The number can also appear separately as 14 or 88 on their own and they represent those involved with Nazis and white supremacists.
The four outer dots represent the four walls of a prison while the inside dot is a prisoner locked inside them. The swallow tattoo was traditionally a symbol that a sailor had returned home safely after a successful voyage.
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Where "bird" comes from the cockney rhyming slang "bird lime" which means for "doing time". Those with the inking are referred to as "The Prince of Thieves" - a high gangland accolade. Sign in.
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All Football. There are many different symbols and numbers that represent multiple gangs or groups.
Certain images like spider webs can represent the length of sentences. The well-known teardrop tattoo can signify that the wearer was raped while incarcerated   or, reportedly particularly in West Coast gang contexts, that the wearer has killed someone. Tattoos are also used to communicate who the inmates are as people — for example, white supremacists will display prominent tattoos to show their beliefs. Three dots arranged as a triangle, mean "mi vida loca" or "my crazy life" to Mexican inmates linked to the Mexican Mafia , while four dots have the same meaning but are found on Mexican gang members associated with the Nuestra Familia;  a clock with no hands represents "doing time"; spider webs are a symbol of being trapped; or the number 13 to signify being unlucky.
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One common prison tattoo is the five dots tattoo , a quincunx usually placed on the hand, with different meanings in different cultures. Or a dot on each hand in between the thumb and forefinger, one meaning going into prison and one meaning they have completed their sentence. In Ireland, a common tattoo ex-inmates give themselves is a simple dot placed under the eye using Indian ink , colloquially known as a "jail dot". A Borstal dot also meant doing time but this tattoo has become a lot less common since Borstals were abolished.
Another less common prison tattoo dates back to Borstals which earned itself the name the "Borstal glove" is the back of the criminal's hand outlined and just full of Indian ink. A spider web usually located on the elbow, symbolizes time served in prison. Since the tattoo machines are homemade and efficient means of sterilization are not available, there are many health risks involved.