Most Famous Prison Tattoos With Surprising Meanings

Most countries have a long history of prisoners getting tattoos with crime-related meanings. Nowadays we can see prison tattoos everywhere as a lot of them become “mainstream” and regular people get them. However, a lot of people don’t understand the real meaning or the stories behind these tattoos. Therefore we at Anomalous decided to bring you a collection of some most common prisoner tattoos and their meanings. 

Barbed Wire

Most people would think that a barbed wire tattoo represents a breaking free from a wired prison. However, the thorns actually represent the number of years the person spends in prison. 

Most Famous Prison Tattoos With Surprising Meanings

Other than that, the barbed wire tattoo can also symbolize the power of individuals who have conquered painful events. These tattoos became popular during World War 2 and slowly they have made their way to the criminal world. 


Have you ever had a bad run with the cops? Well, Prisoners with this tattoo have. The tattoo stands for “All cops are bastards” and it is also represented by 1312 sometimes (by matching the placement of the letters in the alphabet) 

Most Famous Prison Tattoos With Surprising Meanings

Prisoners don’t always have respect for law enforcement. It is one reason why they came up with more than one way to represent that in tattoos. 

Five Dots

The normal five-dot tattoo represents that a person has served or is still serving a prison sentence. The four dots in the corners represent the prison and the dot in the middle represents the prisoner. 

Most Famous Prison Tattoos With Surprising Meanings

Even though this is a simple tattoo and is pretty easy to make, it has a strong meaning and it’s very common among most prisoners. 

Three Dots

This tattoo is more like a morse code among prisoners. “Mi Vida Loca” or “my crazy life” is the meaning of this too and it portrays that they are most likely a part of a gang. 

Most Famous Prison Tattoos With Surprising Meanings

Most Mexican mafia members are big fans of the three dots tattoo and they even created their own symbolic tattoos using the 3-dot tattoo. 


Lightning bolt tattoos on prisoners are most likely linked to white supremacist groups. They are often referred to as hate symbols by prisoners who are not white supremacists.

Most Famous Prison Tattoos With Surprising Meanings

Prisoners with these tattoos serve as declarations for other inmates that have racist beliefs. 


Teardrops are one of the most recognizable tattoos and they even become popular with regular people. Usually, teardrops are tattooed on the face underneath an eye and it looks like a person has a tear rolling down their cheek. 

Most Famous Prison Tattoos With Surprising Meanings

This tattoo means that a person has either tried to commit murder or did and spent time for it. However, the tattoo may look different in other countries and has a different meaning. 

What do you think about these prison tattoos? Do you also have tattoos? 

Written by Multisitez

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