Tattoo removal helps people find jobs. Visible tattoos that are violent, racist, or gang-related are a barrier to employment. Tattoo removal helps people make a break with past affiliations and attitudes.
People who need to remove tattoos typically need to pay between $3,000 and $5,000 per large tattoo. Removing one tattoo typically requires 8 to 10 sessions spaced out with 6 weeks between sessions.
We received a generous donation from the Community Foundation of Elkhart County and various area businesses to cover the initial cost of the tattoo removal machine, the cooling machine (necessary for anesthesia), and for operator training.
Since then we have relied on donations and income from other services to subsidize the cost of the program. We ask for a nominal donation of $10 per session, but are willing to provide this service regardless of ability to pay because we have seen the transformative impact it can have on a person’s life.
Our two primary tattoo removal technicians are former inmates who have experienced the benefits of tattoo removal first-hand. As such, they are uniquely positioned to offer empathetic, culturally sensitive care for our patients. In their own words, “When we’re taking off someone’s tattoo, it feels like a holy moment. It’s an act of forgiveness and a chance for this person to get free of the chains of the past.” They have both been instrumental in the designing, planning, and evaluation of our tattoo removal program.
Jail Ministry of Elkhart County has a tattoo removal program; however, tattoo removal takes 40-60 weeks and many people were reluctant to start a process they would not be able to finish. Because we now collaborate with the jail we are seeing more willingness to begin the removal process at the jail and then continue through our clinic. Jail Ministry of Elkhart County has supported this project and has worked closely with MCHCC since this program’s inception.
We know of no other program offering these services at affordable costs to the people in our community. The county jail has a tattoo removal program; however, tattoo removal is only available for prisoners at the jail. Because jail stays are often relatively short compared to the time it takes to remove a tattoo, there is a need to continue the work when people leave.
In 2019, we helped 44 people with tattoo removal services. We hope to impact at least as many people in 2021.
“Juan” wept as he explained how, as a child, he was forced to be inked by older gang members and to run drugs for one of the most dangerous gangs in the country. Thankfully, he was able to flee in pursuit of a better life. However, as long as he had that tattoo he could not return to his country. Assured that we could help him, his tears of shame and sadness turned to tears of joy. “You have no idea the freedom this will bring to me,” he said.
We hope to remove with violent, racist, or gang-related tattoos for at least 40 people in 2021.
Our tattoo removal program is open to all residents of Elkhart County; however, most people who take advantage of the service are from Goshen or Elkhart.