ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

cloudy-day
91°
Sunny
H 94° L 77°
  • cloudy-day
    91°
    Current Conditions
    Sunny. H 94° L 77°
  • clear-day
    78°
    Morning
    Sunny. H 94° L 77°
  • cloudy-day
    92°
    Afternoon
    Partly Cloudy. H 95° L 77°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest newscast

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest traffic report

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest forecast

00:00 | 00:00

Body art on Florida prison inmates runs from freaky to kinky

Carl Vines, serving 10 years at the Avon Park Correctional Institution in Central Florida, tattooed the inside of his lip with the word "dope."

>> Read more trending stories

Tavares Young, who has been in and out of prison since 1992, replaced his eyebrows with permanently manicured ink.

Richard Ward, who has racked up 18 theft-related convictions since 1987, covered his male appendage in candy cane stripes.

In an era when tattoos are growing more popular, especially among the young, prison continues to be a place where people of all ages flash their colors — and inner psyches — on all surfaces of the skin.

Three of four Florida inmates have at least one tattoo, a Palm Beach Post analysis of prison records shows. That’s more than 380,000 tattoos on nearly 75,000 state inmates, making body art about as typical as freckles or birthmarks.

Those numbers don’t shock Michael "Pooch" Pucciarelli, a tattoo artist and owner of Altered State Tattoo in Lake Worth, Florida.

"I think what surprises me more is that people still don’t see me and think I’m a felon," said Pooch, whose arms and legs are swirling with colorful figures.

The state of Florida painstakingly logs every tattoo and its location, creating a telling record of an oft-overlooked population.

The single most common tattoo in Florida prisons is the cross, worn by more than 22,000 inmates. Another popular tattoo: skulls, at 15,000.

Pooch could have guessed — skulls and crosses are among the most common tattoo requests he gets from his clientele, whom he described as regular people, not the bikers and sailors once typically associated with tattoos.

The most likely location for a tattoo for a Florida prisoner? The arms, by far, though the right arm has a slight edge over the left.

That’s not to say tattoos can’t be found on any other body part, as Ward’s candy cane-adorned nether region attests.

And not all ink is of the "thug life" variety.

For instance, Billy Jones, a 46-year-old Hypoluxo man, sports a peace sign on his back. He’s one of 336 inmates in Florida prisons to adorn their bodies with the symbol, a tattoo often in conflict with the crimes they committed.

Jones' crime? He’s serving 6½ years for stabbing his neighbor.

Tattoos don’t seem to just conflict with the wearer’s crimes, but also the wearers other ink.

Fifty-nine inmates sport "Hello Kitty" tattoos — 15 of them men.

Vines, imprisoned on a drug charge, is among the men tattooed with the girlish Japanese cartoon character. His resides on his leg, accompanied by the words “I love you.”

But Vines is not all sugar and spice and everything nice. On his neck is a tattoo that spells "murda," state records show, though he has never been convicted of taking a life.

Not like Wes McGee, a murderer who sports an unnerving tattoo popular among Florida inmates.

When police booked McGee into jail 10 years ago for the slaying of a West Palm Beach grandmother and the attempted murder of her then-6-year-old grandson, McGee's face hadn’t yet been scarred with ink.

Since then two teardrops have been etched into the skin beneath his left eye — tattoos commonly worn by murderers to tally their dead.

His choice of facial art is not unique in Florida prisons. Nearly 3,200 inmates have teardrop tattoos on their cheeks. About 270 of them are in for murder charges.

Another is Robert Alvarez, who tattooed his face with nine symbols including teardrops and a cross, which he got while he was in prison between the time of his initial conviction in 2012 and the appellate ruling that won him a second trial stemming from the 2010 murders of two store clerks.

The judge in Alvarez's second trial allowed him to cover his facial ink with makeup. The Post reported at the time that jurors noticed the makeup job, though they said it didn't impact their decision.

"I could see that he had something (under the makeup) but I couldn’t tell what it was," one female juror told the Post after her peers couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict and the judge declared a mistrial. "I thought he’d gotten in a fight or something and they were trying to cover up the bruises."

In yet another trial, a made-up Alvarez lost. He’s serving three concurrent life sentences.

The tattoos selected by women, who make up about 7 percent of the state’s 99,600 inmates, often vary wildly from men. The most common tattoos among women prisoners are butterflies, hearts, roses and flowers.

Emerald Smith, for example, at the all-female Gadsden Correctional Facility in Quincy, has a heart on her hand in addition to a number of more uncommon tattoos, like the fairy on the top of her foot.

Or the tattoo of a stick figure pushing a lawn mower, the placement of which seemed critical. The Department of Corrections lists its location only as "pelvis."

Smith also has a tattoo of the logo for gun maker Browning Arms on her right arm, perhaps a tip-off to her reason for landing in the slammer: armed robbery.

While the Department of Corrections logs every inmate's tattoos, turning those records into absolute numbers is a daunting task. The state’s notations are often vague, misspelled or describe multiple tattoos as one.

That means the number of tattoos worn by inmates in Florida prisons is likely higher than the 380,000 tattoos counted by the Post.

It’s also difficult to pinpoint gang affiliation through tattoo records. The state recognizes more than 1,000 gangs. The Post found more than 8,000 tattoos in Florida prisons that explicitly reference those gangs.

The most prevalent gang, according to the state, is the Aryan Brotherhood. Its members often mark themselves with swastikas, accounting for about 580 of the tattoos on the inmate list.

The Department of Corrections also lists Neta, a Puerto Rico-based prison gang, as one of the more prolific prison gangs, though members often remain secretive about their allegiance. That might explain why only about 100 tattoos evoke the group’s symbols.

Tattoos that broadly include the words "gang," "gangster" or "gangsta" are much more common, with more than 660 of them.

Other popular gang tattoos include references to the Blood and Crip gangs as well as the phrase "thug life."

Pooch, who has been inking tattoos for 22 years, said he has encountered a Nazi-affiliated tattoo once before. On a Jewish felon.

The man joined a white gang for protection while he was in prison. He got the tattoo so he could blend in, but when he got out, the man wanted the tattoo gone, Pooch said.

"I covered it up with an Asian mask. Japanese-style," Pooch said. "I do those a lot."

 

 

 

 


Read More
VIEW COMMENTS

There are no comments yet. Be the first to post your thoughts. or Register.

The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission confirms they’ve investigating a video on social media showing a group of men dragging a shark behind their boat. Whoever is recording pans over to reveal three men on the boat, laughing as the shark is being dragged at a high rate of speed.  The shark appears to be tied by its tail. (Mobile users click here to see video) Investigators said they don’t know who originally posted the video, where it was shot, or what happened to the shark. A spokesperson for FWC said they take the incident very seriously and are attempting to identify everyone in the video. South Florida sport fisherman Mark Quartiano, also known as “Mark the Shark,” re-posted the video on his Instagram page and condemned it, saying “Force once I may have to agree with Peta.” (Click here to see Instagram post) Anyone with information is urged to contact the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922 or Tip@MyFWC.com.  Individuals can choose to remain anonymous.
  • Last year more than 6,000 juveniles were arrested in Orange County. Now the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and community leaders are asking for help to keep kids and teens out of trouble.  Orange County has the highest number of juvenile arrests in the state of Florida and according to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice many of those arrests come from Pine Hills.  Though agency data show that deputies are expecting that number to go down this year,  Orange County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Angelo Nieves said it will take help.  “The struggle to help youth in the community is an ongoing one, though, so while things are improving, there is still a lot of work to do,” Nieves said.  Community outreach leaders Miles Mulrain and Emory “Zulu Dynasty” James are part of the help needed in the community. Their nonprofit organization Let Your Voice Be Heard, works to keep youth out of trouble.  “We don’t want to see these young people incarcerated and destroying their lives. Certain experiences we’ve had motivate and inspire us to get out,” James said.  However Mulrain and James said that getting the number of arrests down will also take help from the community.  “One of the biggest things to have is more involvement from other groups, more involvement from neighbors and residents,” Mulrain said. “The more hands on deck, the more we can all do.”  Mulrain said with a little help each person can make a positive change.  “It’s up to us to make it happen, and that’s just to show that you don’t need to have everything you think to make a change,” Mulrain said. 
  • Police in Prince William County, Virginia, have rescinded a warrant to arrest former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Lucky Whitehead. “Upon reviewing the June 22, 2017, arrest of an individual named ‘Rodney Darnell Whitehead, Jr.,’ the police department is confident that the man charged with petit larceny, and who is subsequently being sought on an active warrant for failure to appear in court, is not Lucky Whitehead of the Dallas Cowboys,” said a statement from the Prince William County Police Department. 'The police department regrets the impact these events had on Mr. Whitehead and his family.' >> Read more trending news TMZ reported Monday during the Cowboys’ morning walk-through that the receiver was arrested for shoplifting on June 22 and had a warrant out for his arrest after failing to appear for a July 6 court date. When informed of the matter, Whitehead said he knew nothing of it and the allegations were false. In a press conference, coach Jason Garrett said the Cowboys had just discovered the situation as the walk-through was concluding and that the team would “respond accordingly.” Later that day, the Cowboys released him. When Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones was asked if he had spoken with Whitehead’s agent about the possibility of it being a case of mistaken identity, as was being reported from Whitehead’s camp, Jones said, “I’m not going to comment on that.” Whitehead was the example the Cowboys used to demonstrate accountability after an offseason that has seen defensive end David Irving suspended for a performance-enhancing drug policy violation, linebacker Damien Wilson arrested on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and running back Ezekiel Elliott allegedly involved in a night club incident.
  • Deland police and the Volusia County Sheriff’’s Office are tracking a suspect after after a Tuesday morning bank robbery. No one was hurt and the suspect fled on foot towards Interstate 4, according to DeLand Police.  The suspect entered the PNC Bank at 111 Endicott Way shortly after 10 a.m. and demanded money. He left with an undisclosed amount of cash. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-888-277-8477. People may remain anonymous and those with information leading to an arrest could be eligible for a reward.
  • Immigrants who survived a trip inside a big rig in which eight people were found dead in San Antonio this weekend told police as many as 180 to 200 people had been in the trailer at some point during the trip, according to court documents. >> Read more trending news A criminal complaint filed Monday against James Mathew Bradley Jr. also outlines the danger and cost of crossing the Texas-Mexico border illegally, including an expensive river crossing and protection payments to men with alleged ties to the notorious Zetas drug cartel. When authorities found the vehicle on the southwest side of San Antonio on Sunday, there were 39 people inside, including the eight dead. Two more died from their injuries after being taken to area hospitals for treatment. The immigrants, identified only by their initials, told investigators that they had paid thousands of dollars to enter the country. One told authorities he was traveling with seven relatives in a group of 24 people. He said he’d been held in a stash house in Laredo for 11 days before boarding the rig. “He stated when his group arrived at the tractor-trailer, there were already 70 people in the trailer and it was very hot,” the complaint said. Another immigrant told investigators that he was going to pay smugglers $5,500 when he arrived at his final destination in San Antonio. But even before, he was told by a smuggler that that people linked to the Zetas drug cartel would charge 11,000 pesos (about $622) for protection and another 1,500 pesos (about $85) to cross into the United States by raft at a deep section of the river. “The money was collected and his group crossed the river by raft in three trips,” the complaint said. One of the undocumented immigrants told federal investigators that “people had a hole in the trailer wall to provide some ventilation, and they started taking turns breathing from the hole.'f The victims “were very hot to the touch” and the “people were in this trailer without any signs of any type of water,” San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said. Temperatures reached a searing 101 degrees in San Antonio on Saturday and didn’t drop below 90 degrees until after 10 p.m. Authorities said 39 people were in the truck when rescue workers arrived early Sunday. Four of the survivors appeared to be between 10 and 17 years old, ICE acting Director Thomas Homan said. Bradley was charged Monday with transporting immigrants in the U.S. illegally for 'commercial advantage or private financial gain.' The Associated Press reported that the charge could qualify for a death penalty sentence if Bradley is convicted. The Associated Press and the Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.