Prison Tattoos

Prison Tattoos

Whenever someone goes to prison it seems that three things happen. They either find Jesus, find the weights and swell up into some sort of prison steroid junkie or they cover themselves, head to toe, in tattoos.

Many people aren’t aware what these tattoos mean or how they actually end up receiving them in prison. Often times the tattoos that inmates ink on their bodies have certain meanings.

Prison Tattoos Meanings


The classic teardrop is probably by far the most famous. It can be seen on a lot of rappers nowadays and “wanna be thugs”, it does have a few different meanings but inside those four walls it means they have killed someone. If the person has a teardrop but it isn’t filled in that means the job remains incomplete.


If you plan on taking a trip to the pen it’s probably best to avoid these kinds of folk all together. If a prisoner has a faceless or handless clock it is meant to show time standing still. This tattoo is geared more towards people who are serving long term or life sentences.

Five Dots

Have you ever come across someone who has a tattoo of five dots on their hand? This happens to be a very discreet tattoo. Many criminals get this tattoo while inside jail. It symbolizes someone who has spent time in jail. The four dots on the outside represent the four walls of prison and the dot on the inside represents the inmate.

Spider Web Tattoos

Spider web tattoos on the elbow is extremely common. It’s also a sign that someone has spent time in a correctional facility. The larger the web on the person the longer the sentence was. Also, in spider web defense, they might just be a giant “No Doubt” fan.


White supremacy and Nazi gangs happen to be a very big thing in prisons. The number 1488 can be seen on many of these inmates. The “14” refers to the “fourteen word” slogan: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White Children.” The “88” refers to the “88 Precepts,” a manifesto written by fellow white supremacist David Lane while he was serving a life sentence.

Three Dots

Three dots by the eye represent the saying “Mi Vida Loca”. This, unfortunately, for die hard Ricky Martin fans, has nothing to do with him or the song. It’s associated with the gang type lifestyle. It means that this person is a gang member for life.

Rose With Thorns

The final popular tattoo that is abundant in jail, mainly in Asia and Russia, is the rose with thorns. This tattoo means that they spent their 18th birthday while in prison. Sounds like it would be a bad way to be brought into adulthood.

This isn’t an article meant to scare you away from any certain tattoos or that if you have one of these that it’s what they represent. This is meant to bring light into the world of jail tattoos. For most of us isn’t something we don’t need to worry about but for some, this might help.