Prison Tattoos and Their Meanings

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).


47 responses to “Prison Tattoos and Their Meanings



  2. you have nothing right here at all

  3. this shit is obviously a joke. and all caps does not make your comments look intelligent ese; neither does replacing ‘you’ with ‘u’ or misspelling loca. it will only make you come accross as a dumb ass border jumping baby spamming cholo fuck.

    but i personally dont judge, just letting you know..

  4. At the end of the day tattoos are personal choice therefore each to their own !

    One thing i will say is prison tattoo’s are some of the most amazing ones around… So i take my hat off to the talented inmates :O)

    • I agree, some of the inmates are so talented; a god given talent; use it with the intention of doing good. This is an art!

  5. plus you left out all about authoritet! everything common with the squares!

  6. Hahaha you are very funny. These were meant to be a joke. Of course they are not going to be right. I’m not sure how you didn’t realize this and why you are getting so mad. Although, I guess since you know they are wrong, the joke worked. 🙂 Way to go.

  7. What’s the 3 dots mi vida loca mean?
    4 feathers on the face?
    Cross high on the left cheek?

    bit dumb to ask but will anyhow??

  8. Should put that better… dots on the chin

  9. i have no idea.

    3 dots represtpents the 3 places a gang member can go – prison, hospital, or the grave. mi vida loco, or however u say it mean my crazy life.

  10. Greg theodoran

    Yes prision tattoos are the most amazing ones around and i no thys because my unkles just got out of prision(15)years.and he has always told me “greg wen i get out im gonna make u a prision tatt. If its okay with your father”.and when he got out he did make me only fifteen and i am walking around with a prision joke ..but yes must certainly say that i have much respect for the artists in prision i salute them..however no matter where i go i always try to hide my tattoo because i dnt deserve to wear it ..

  11. What do prison tattoos on guys faces mean?

  12. what does the dragon tattoo mean?

  13. Is this a joke , this guy needs to be in a hospital

  14. Those are indeed wrong and the butterfly means gang affiliation a butterfly coming out of a cocoon means you are changing from what you were into a “homie” a lot of nortenos have it

  15. Wahkeen Wobongo

    my uncle has a tattoo by his penis saying slippery when wet, can anyone explain what that means? he just got out of prison

  16. Wahkeen Wobongo

    Nevermind he showed me what it meant Mmmmm

    • Slippery when wet! XD

      I about pissed my pants! Haha!

      • Oh my god. Im dying. I was in the car with my family when i read that, i just burst out laughing and they all think im crazy, but that was the comment that made my day.

  17. it means they never made it all the way to 14 lol

  18. Some of the best artwork I have seen came from a guy out of Prison. I helped a guy start his own tattoo business in South Florida. That was 10years ago. A legit tattoo business still going strong today. He makes money , I make money. Our next venture is etching glass on streetrods.

  19. Cool my dads got 3 stars on his arm

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  24. Can anyone tell me what the prison tattoo of a horseshoe with a line through it means?

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  27. The dragon tattoo represents Wisdom and RAW Power, the Skull and Death represents Murder or not being afraid to die, it often acts as a reminder, like most death tattoos, to live life to the fullest because it is fleeting and transient. The teardrop under the eye symbolises the wearer has killed someone, if the teardrop hasnt been inked in it symbolises a friend who’s died and the wearer is waiting for revenge.

  28. I have a tattoo of a unicorn……what would that mean then?

  29. What does the number 4 just near your eye mean tattooed ?

  30. What does 3 dots and then 3 stripes directly under the dots mean?

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  34. this is what I mean. shut the Fuck up

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