Local Sister and Dominican Hospital help ex-gang members remove their tattoos
The Dominican Hospital Tattoo Removal Program is housed in the Rehab Services Building on Frederick Street in Santa Cruz. At the end of a long, chaotic corridor full of wheelchairs, the office door is wide open. Sister Maureen Keeler waits inside.
“The purpose of our program is to help stem the violence in Santa Cruz and surrounding counties by the removal of gang-related tattoos,” she says. “Also, to help the patient be able to continue on with their lives, gain employment and do whatever they may be dreaming about for their future.”
Here, in exchange for 20 hours of community service, people receive a clean slate on which to build a future most thought they'd never have. For many, tattoo removal is a chance to create a new identity, to start over, find a job and distance themselves from a violent or troubled past. But it's a procedure that most would never be able to afford on their own.