Common prison tattoos include the teardrop, a clock with no hands or the "five dots" tattoo. In addition, prisoners often get tattoos to show gang affiliation or to symbolize a belief in racial superiority. Prisoners use tattoos to intimidate other prisoners or to tell a story.
The most common prison tattoo is the teardrop, a tattoo which has multiple meanings. A teardrop can symbolize being sexually assaulted while in prison, a prisoner having a sad life, or the idea that the prisoner's mother has lost her son. However, the tattoo is most commonly associated with having committed first degree murder.
Another common tattoo is a clock with no hands, which symbolizes the meaninglessness of time for prisoners serving a life sentence. The "five dots" tattoo is another popular design that represents the four walls of prison with the inner dot symbolizing the inmate serving time.
In prison, many inmates join gangs in order to demonstrate a devotion to their race. The Aryan Brotherhood is one of the largest prison gang networks in the United States. A common tattoo displayed by members of the Aryan Brotherhood is the number "1488." In this tattoo, the "14" represents a 14-word quote by Nazi leader David Lane, and the "88" corresponds to the letters "HH," which is a code representing the Nazi phrase "Heil Hitler".