The interlocking triangles on the left cheek are a Norse symbol known as the Valknut that represents the idea of dying in battle. It is worn by Neo-Nazi and Aryan supremacy groups to show a readiness to fight and die for the cause of ensuring prosperity for the white race.
One of the most common criminal tattoos is the teardrop underneath the eye. The most widely accepted meaning of the teardrop is the wearer has killed someone — this is reported to have originated among the Chicano gangs of California. The teardrop can also mean that the wearer has served a long prison sentence, or is mourning the loss of a family member. A clear teardrop, like the one pictured, can mean that the wearer has committed an attempted murder, or alternatively, that a close friend was killed and the wearer is seeking revenge.
The clock with no hands symbolizes "doing time" and is representative of the meaninglessness of time to an inmate serving a lengthy, or lifelong, prison sentence.
The three dots tattoo, worn either on the hand or near the eye, represents the phrase "Mi Vida Loca," or "My Crazy Life." The tattoo can be found on many Hispanic inmates and does not necessarily mean affiliation with any particular gang. The three dots can also carry religious meaning, representing the holy trinity.
The five point crown is a symbol of the Latin Kings gang which originated in 1940s Chicago. The ALKN on this tattoo stands for Almighty Latin King Nation. Other tattoos may have the acronym ALKQN, with the Q standing for Queen. Latin Kings belong to the People Nation network of gangs, and thus identify themselves with the number five, using a five-pointed star hand symbol as well as the crown seen in this tattoo and in Latin King graffiti.
The MS 13 on this man's back stands for Mara Salvatrucha, a large Latino gang notorious for its ruthlessness and violence. MS 13 originated in Los Angeles, but now operates across the United States as well as in Mexico, Central America and Canada. In addition to markings on the body, MS 13 members often sport intricate face tattoos.
Nazi symbols, such as Swastikas and Sig runes, are also frequently seen on tattoos worn by members of the Aryan Brotherhood and other white supremacist gangs. During World War II, the runes were worn as insignia by the SS of the Third Reich.
The two mask tattoos seen in this photo are also a common theme in prison tattoos. With a generally accepted meaning of "play now, pay later," or "laugh now, cry later," the theatrical masks can be seen on prisoners regardless of gang affiliation.
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