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October 5, 2014

Could we reduce recidivism with tattoo removal prison programming?

TattooThe (only slightly tongue-in-cheek) question in the title of this post is prompted by this interesting new research paper available on SSRN authored by Kaitlyn Harger.  The piece is titled "Bad Ink: Visible Tattoos and Recidivism," and here is the abstract:

This study examines whether tattoo visibility affects recidivism length of ex-offenders. Conventional wisdom suggests that visible tattoos may negatively influence employment outcomes. Additionally, research on recidivism argues that employment post-release is a main determinant of reductions in recidivism. Taken together, these two bodies of literature suggest there may be a relationship between tattoos visible in the workplace and recidivism of released inmates.

Using data from the Florida Department of Corrections, I estimate a log-logistic survival model and compare estimated survival length for inmates with and without visible tattoos. The findings suggest that inmates with visible tattoos return to incarceration faster than those without tattoos or with tattoos easily hidden by clothing. 

Though I cannot fully parse the data reported in this paper, among the seemingly significant findings is that " inmates with tattoos located on their face, head, neck, or hands, return to incarceration faster than inmates with tattoos in other visible locations. In general, ex-offenders with tattoos located on their face, head, neck, or hands fail 674 days earlier than ex-offenders with visible tattoos in other locations."  Though this relationship between tattoo and criminal offending may well be a story more about correlation than causation, it certainly suggest to me that we might well start paying a more attention to "bad ink" as we focus efforts on efforts to reduce recidivism.

October 5, 2014 at 11:54 AM | Permalink


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Yes, unless you are a singer or professional athlete or perhaps a barista, getting ahead in the non-criminal world is likely to be burdened by tattoos on the "face, head, neck, or hands." I'm not against tattoos personally, but those places ... not so much.

Posted by: Joe | Oct 5, 2014 12:51:47 PM

For many years I have advised all clients to remove all visible tattoos whatever the cost and whatever the pain. (and each can be considerable).

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Oct 5, 2014 2:31:04 PM

When I was Superintendent of a Reception Center-Clinic, years ago now, we removed hundreds of tattoos as part of the regular program. Yes, I agree. They make a difference.

Posted by: Tom McGee | Oct 6, 2014 3:48:04 PM

Thanks for our information.

Posted by: Fernando | Oct 7, 2014 9:08:31 AM

I think it would be cool to get a tattoo. I have been thinking of a few designs that I want to get done. I think I better start out small though. You can't really go back on a tattoo, so it has to be right the first time. I wonder what my wife would say. http://www.inklab.com

Posted by: Caleb Hart | Jan 13, 2015 4:40:32 PM

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Posted by: Fernando | Jan 20, 2015 8:44:23 AM

Nice blog.thanks for our sharing.we also provide tattoo removal technology in the past fifteen years. The PicoSure literally blasts tattoo ink into dust-like particles that are washed away by the bloodstream.

Posted by: Fernando Perez | Apr 10, 2015 2:58:25 AM

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