Freedom Ink program offers free tattoo removal for ex-gang members, ex-convicts in Detroit

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Getting a fresh start out of jail can be hard when you have permanent reminders of your past.

Prison or gang tattoos can be difficult to hide and expensive to remove. However, one program in Southwest Detroit is offering free tattoo removal for former gang members or felons. It’s called Freedom Ink.

Lance Alexander is having his neck tattoos removed.

“I just hate to look at myself in the mirror with it,” Alexander said.

He used to be a thief, and his Hamburglar tattoo gives that away.

“It’s an identifying mark that I just want to get out,” he said.

It wasn’t until he went to jail for a home invasion when he realized this was not the life he wanted to live.

“The next door neighbor came out and stopped me," Alexander said. "He shot me in my knee, twice.”

Freedom Ink is offered at the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation.

“It’s really hard because they’ve now branded themselves,” said Dr. Laura Law.

She is a dermatology resident with Beaumont Farmington Hills and is proud to help former gang members and felons get back on their feet, one laser treatment at a time.

“Get jobs, join the military and have a new start,” Law said.

Patients describe the feeling of the laser-like hot grease.

Law says there are only three programs that offer this kind of service in the country. They’ve already served thousands of people, but now they need a new laser machine because this one is ready to bust.

Newer technology helps remove amateur tattoos made with a variety of materials. Many of their patients didn’t get tattoos in a shop. Alexander got three of his in prison.

Law explained, “We do our best to get it to work as effectively as possible but that could be probably the most frustrating thing.”

A newer machine could mean fewer treatments. Alexander has been coming here for months to get his tattoos removed and his life restored.

“I just want to be normal,” he said. “Wake up in my own house, have my own vehicle, kids running around, going to school.” 

There is a GoFundMe page set up to raise money for a new tattoo laser removal machine.

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