This article originally appeared on ABC Eyewitness News Broadcast Chanel 7, WLS-TV Chicago. All Rights Reserved.
June 1, 2009 (CHICAGO) —
For gang members, gang tattoos are often part of the lifestyle. They are visual reminders of a violent and dangerous time.Now, a Chicago tattoo artist hopes changing old tattoos will help transform lives.”When you’re in the gang, you’re in it for life,” said Luis Corral. He said he was shot because of his gang tattoos five years ago. Even though he’d left his gang life, he said his old tattoos led to violence.
“I still had my tattoos, since they’re there for life, you can only hide them so much,” said Corral.
Corral says after he decided to change his life — he started going through a program called “Sacred Transformations”.
“We want to help the young people go forward,” said James Prewitt, South Side Tattoos.
South Side Tattoos donates supplies and space for ‘Sacred Transformations’. The program’s director — Eric Dean Spruth — changes old tattoos into new images for free.
“We allow people to empower themselves through identifying a new mark, a new horizon in their life, something they can be proud of,” said Spruth.
“I gave 35 years of my life to the streets,” said Armando, a former gang member from Little Village. He doesn’t want ABC7 showing his face or using his last name. He says now he’s trying to set an example for young people caught up in gangs in his neighborhood.
“For these young kids out there I hope that they understand that this isn’t the life,” said Armando. “Thirty-six young kids, going to high school, trying to get their education, lost their lives for nothing?. You know, this is something that we have to stop.”
For Corral, the new tattoos mean a new chance at life.
“Now I can go anywhere I want, and not worry about, hey, if I die today, it ain’t because of my tattoos, you know what I’m saying, it ain’t because I got gang tattoos on me,” said Corral.