Crucifix – A cross worn on the chest signifies a “Prince of Thieves”, the highest possible rank. Or a scene of the crucified Christ, has no religious meaning but it’s the inmate saying he’s been oppressed and sentenced by the authorities just like Jesus and that he was crucified, died, and reborn just before getting caught stealing a six-pack. If the crucifix is topped by a crown then it means the wearer is a pakhan – a guy who got caught stealing a twelve-pack.
Crown – The Crown on any part of the body indicates a leader, or “King”, the head of the Prison Chess Club.
Skulls – These are usually worn by high ranking gang members who can’t afford a Crown or a Jesus (see above).
Jokes – These are humorous tattoos usually incorporating a grinning face or a punch line and are often accompanied by text. The butt of the joke will often be the prison authorities or a minority.
Snakes – A snake around the neck/shoulders means that the wearer feels lonely without his pet reptile.
Tigers – Signifies an inmate is probably a fan of professional golf, or big cats, or maybe stealing?
Eyes – Various meanings: If the eyes are tattooed in the lower groin/hip high area (thus creating a ‘face’ when his trousers are dropped – with the penis becoming the nose) someone with that tattoo is known as ‘the funniest guy in Cell Block C’ or ‘a laugh riot’.
Panda Bears – These rare tattoos are usually worn by gang members who enjoy eating bamboo and sleeping in trees.
Stars – Stars commonly represent time served; a Jim Carrey tattoo means you will be forgotten very soon, whereas a Sylvester Stallone tattoo will symbolize your life imprisonment without parole.
Churches – The number of dome towers (cupolas) indicates either number of prison terms, or it’s the only thing that the tattoo artist knew how to draw. I mean seriously, of all things on planet earth why would a prisoner put a CHURCH on his back?
Knight or Crusader – A knight in full armor indicates a sadist, an inmate accused of hooliganism, assault and battery. Also indicates a high ranking in the roll playing game, “Dungeons and Dragons.”
Genie – A Genie and a lamp indicates inmates serving time who belong to the, “I Love Barbra Eden Fan Club,” which originated in Huntsville’s Death Row.
Spider Within a Web – Can indicate a drug addiction. It can also mean that the wearer is a thief. It may also indicate time served or the feeling of being “trapped.” However sometimes it has been known to mean that the wearer may or may not like spiders. Actually this one has many meanings and should not be on the list.
Dagger – Sexual predator or, if the dagger is tattooed on the shoulders with blood dripping form the end of blade, it means you are a killer, a man to be feared or called upon when in need of an accomplice for a murder. Sometimes the imprisoned criminal just wears a giant neon light that flashes, “Look at me, I’m about to commit another crime!” These guys can be located near the closest electrical sockets.
Candlesticks – The wearer of this tattoo is saying he can throw one helluva dinner party, beware.
Butterflies – Show the wearer is trustworthy, or a big fat liar (I mean come on, anyone can put a tattoo of a butterfly on their chest. Trust must be earned).
Sailing Ship – This means that the wearer is willing come along with an escape plan. Anyone planning an escape will know to stay the fuck away from the “guy with the ship” because the guards are watching his ass!
Madonna – Wearer regrets getting impulsive tattoo from their early days.
Axl Rose – The wearer celebrated a tremendous fall from grace while in the zone (prison).