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Arts and Entertainment

Video: Former Gang Members Get Tattoos Removed Via Homeboy Industries

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A video takes a look at the men and women of Homeboy Industries, a nonprofit that works to help former gang members move on with their lives, currently undergoing tattoo removal.

As part of their Daily Vice video series, VICE's Muna Mire paid a visit to Los Angeles' Homeboy Industries to learn about their tattoo removal services. Homeboy Industries, founded in 2001 by Father Gregory Boyle, works to reduce recidivism among young people who were previously in jail for gang-related activities, as well as prevent at-risk youth from getting involved with gangs. One thing the organization does is help cover tattoo removal.

"We identified the need to provide a tattoo removal service, one of the main reasons being that it was barrier for employment but also just a stigma for people who have tattoos and are attempting to leave the gang lifestyle," Homeboy's Jose Osuna said.

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It's apparently no walk in the park to have this process done. Tory Clarke, a tattoo removal specialist who works with the group, describes what it feels like to have a tattoo removed as a woman whimpers in the background.

"It feels like popping grease or like a hot rubber band fully stretched with needles on the end shooting fire," he said.

Another man undergoing removal grunts that it's the "kind of pain that makes you want to punch a baby." But, the man says, it's worth it.

Clarke also tells a story about a guy who was having several tattoos removed, but was kidnapped by former gang members who redid them.

Homeboy also helps its clients with education, counseling, legal issues and finding employment. One particular program pays for Homeboy clients to learn how to install solar panels. Another program involves Homegirl Cafe & Catering in Chinatown, where clients work in the kitchen and serve coffee, breakfast and lunch, and the Homegirl Diner on the second floor of L.A. City Hall.