in , , , ,

15 Notorious Prison Tattoos and Their Hidden Meaning Explained

Prison tattoos

Shows like ‘Prison break’ and “Orange is the new black” has generated a fascination for the tattoos. These prison tattoos are no more the domain of the incarcerated members, even the regular plebeians have started using them without being aware of their significance. Here we bring you 15 of the wildly popular prison tattoos and the significant meaning behind each one of them. We found this post originally on Imgur.

1. A.C.A.B

Image Source: Imgur

A.C.A.B stands for All Cops Are Bastards. This is commonly found inked on the bodies of the British prisoners. The acronym was seen by a Newcastle journalist on the walls of a prison wall in 1970’s. The 4-Skins, a British punk band popularized the acronym with their song of the same name in 1980’s. The acronym is commonly rendered one letter per finger.

Some claim that this acronym stands for Always Carry A Bible, this may be the people who may be regretting their previous lives or those who are reforming or reformed.(source)

2. Cross on the Chest

prisoner tattoo
Image Source:

During the 20th century, there was a system of the tattoo being used to identify and differentiate a person’s criminal position and career within the Russian prison and criminal communities.

In the Russian Tattoo hierarchy, a Cross on the chest signifies a ‘Prince of Thieves’, the highest rank among the criminal community. This is usually seen adorning the higher-ups in the mob. A spider with face down suggests that the person has left his criminal past behind. Skull indicates a murderer. Stars  imply authority, if inked on shoulders or knees, it means, ‘I bow to no one’. A tattoo of an eagle represents a senior authority figure, but if the eagle is carrying something, then it denotes a rapist.(source)

3. EWMN (Evil, Wicked, Mean,Nasty)

Image Source:

EWMN is not a code word but stands for ‘Evil, Wicked, Mean, Nasty.’ They do not indicate any allegiance to gangs both within or outside the prison. It simply denotes a person’s disposition. The tattoo is generally inked on their knuckles.

The knuckle tattoos became popular after the release of the movie, ‘The Night of The Hunter’ in 1955. The movie featured a sociopath preacher with ‘love/hate’ tattooed on his knuckles. Criminals naturally loved it and took to inking it on themselves. Today there are several variations such as ‘rock/roll’, ‘stay/down.’ (source)


4. Playing Cards

Playing cards
Image Source: Imgur

Playing card tattoos are the favorites of gamblers who love to play poker. Usually playing cards or suits of the deck such as hearts, clover, spade, and diamonds are inked. This tattoo generally signifies a gambler or someone who thinks life is a gamble.

This tattoo is quite popular among the Russian prisoners where each suit of the deck holds a different meaning. A Club indicates criminal, Spade denotes a thief, Diamond is reserved for stool pigeons and informants, Usually, this is forcibly inked on the unwilling participants. A Heart is worn by someone looking for a romantic partner, usually within a prison. Again, this is sometimes forcibly inked on an unwilling participant.(source)

5. MS13

Image Source: Imgur

MS13 are usually inked at visible areas like the neck, face, hands. Gang members of MS13 or Mara Salvatrucha usually cover their torso with this tattoo and/or with their own sign language. Sometimes they simply tattoo in an  ‘MS’ or a ’13.’

MS13 are an international criminal gang originating in Los Angeles, America. The powerful gang is spread over USA, Canada, Mexico, and Central America. The majority of the Gang members comes from El Salvadore.(source)


Messed-up facts about History

20 Messed-Up Facts About History You Never Learned From Your School Books. Part 2

Powerful Photographs

15 Powerful Photographs That Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity