The Meaning Behind Prison Tattoos


We don’t need to mention how dangerous people in prison are and can get, due to the isolation from the real world. Prison has its own language and code of honour; if a newcomer is not aware and respectful of them, he (or she) could face some pretty severe consequences. Guards are also in a tough position, since if they don’t stay in a safe distance from the criminals, they might be savagely attacked. But, what do some of the most usual and popular prison tattoos mean?

1. 1488

14 is a number that white supremacists follow as sacred and 88 is the equivalent of HH, which means ‘Heil Hitler’.


2. Cobweb

Cobwebs usually mean that someone will stay in prison for the rest of their life. It says that they have been trapped in a cobweb (prison) and can’t get out.


3. Teardrop

The teardrop usually means that this person has killed someone or attempted to kill. It can also mean that the prisoner has a very long sentence.


4. Three dots

Three dots around the eyes can means that a prisoner belongs in the Mexican team or that they have a devotion to the Holy Trinity.


5. Lightning bolts

Two lightning bolts mean allegiance to the Aryan Brotherhood or any other white power group. They have the same shape with the SS, which represented the Nazis.


6. Deck cards

A deck of cards usually means that the wearer likes gambling or believes that life is a gamble.



This tattoo is mostly found in British prisons and it stands for ”All Cops Are Bastards”. It is usually placed on knuckles and the back of the head.


8. Barbed wire

In Russia, a barbed wire tattoo on the forehead means that the prisoner has a very long sentence without possibility of parole.


Tattoos help prisoners identify each other without having to talk. This way they know which people they can choose to get closer to and which ones to stay away from.


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