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15 more prison tattoos and their meanings

Have you seen any of the tattoos listed below?

By C1 Staff

Our last list of prison tattoos only scratched the surface of what inmates can ink onto their skin. In this next collection, we have a variety of gang tattoos and some unique artwork that may be more for display than anything.

Know a different meaning for the tattoos you see below? Let us know to help keep your brother and sister officers safe.

1. 713


Detroit Border Brief January 17, 2008

‘713' tattooed on this subject’s skull represents the Houston area code. THe number ’13' stands for ‘M,’ the thirteenth letter of the alphabet, for ‘Mexican Mafia.’

2. Angel of Death

Angel of Death.png

Canada Border Services Agency -- Quebec Region

This tattoo depicts the “Angel of Death” or the “Grim Reaper.” It was found on a Sureno gang member.

3. Epaulette


Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia Vol. II

This tattoo is one of the many intricate pieces of artwork that Russian inmates place on their skin. Military insignia and epaulette tattoos are used to signify criminal accomplishments or other parts of a prisoner’s history. Skulls generally designate murders.

Learn more about prison tattoos, their meanings and gangs



Federal Bureau of Investigations

The Crips are a primarily but not exclusively African-American gang, and one of the largest in California. This tattoo shows the word ‘CRIP’ tattooed largely across a gang member’s back.

5. 276


Federal Bureau of Prisons, March 2008

The number ‘276' represents the second, seventh and sixth letters of the alphabet, (B, G, F) the initials for the Black Guerrilla Family.

6. Birds on Horizon

Birds on Horizon.png

Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia Vol. II

The bearer of this tattoo enjoys freedom and is escape-minded. An image of birds flying over the horizon means “I was born free and should be free.”

7. Barbed Wire

Barbed Wire.png

Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia Vol. II

Another typical Russian tattoo, barbed wire across the forehead means a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

8. Cats


Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia Vol. II

A cat tattoo is representative of a thief. One cat means they worked alone; several means they were part of a gang. A cat tattoo can also be indicative of an inmate who does not like law enforcement, especially if worn on the chest.

9. Boot Sole

Boot Sole.png

Calgary Police Service Organized Crime Section

This tattoo depicts the image of a boot sole and tattooed knuckles spelling ‘SKIN.’ It represents neo-Nazi skinheads.

10. Aryan Brotherhood Knight


Federal Bureau of Prisons, March 2008

The letters A/B on the shield of the knight represent Aryan Brotherhood.

11. BGF Dragon

BGF Dragon.png

U.S. military and other law enforcement agencies

This Black Guerilla Family (BGF) tattoo displays a black dragon attacking a prison gun tower. BGF commonly use different versions of a dragon surrounding a prison tower and holding a correctional officer in its clutches.

12. Clown Face/Masks

Clown Face.png

Canada Border Services Agency - Windsor

Common among gang members, clown face or mask tattoos can have many different meanings. “Laugh now, cry later,” “play now, pay later,” and “my happy life, my sad life” are just a few. This style of tattoo is popular among Latin and Asian gang members.

13. Chinese Characters

Chinese Characters.png

Intelligence Unit Westchester County Department of Corrections

These Chinese characters translate to ‘LATIN’ and ‘KING.’ The Latin Kings are also known as the Almighty Latin King Nation.

14. Black Hand of Death

Black Hand of Death.png

Federal Bureau of Prisons, March 2008

This tattoo is of the ‘Black Hand of Death,’ a symbol known to be used by the Mexican Mafia.

15. Asian Gang Dragon

Asian Gang Dragon.png

Calgary Police Service Organized Crime Section

Tattooing in Asian cultures is seen as a defilement of the body -- however, someone who tattoos himself is not necessarily a gang member. Tattoos in Hong Kong tend to depict animals, like snakes, dragons, swallows and phoenixes.

These tattoos became intricate works of art that detailed not only an inmate’s crimes, but a good portion of their lives

This article, originally published October 24, 2014, has been updated.