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Clinic gives free tattoo removal to juvenile offenders

Teens put visible symbols of past behind them

SAN ANTONIO - They have committed felonies including everything from burglary to armed robbery to manslaughter.

Now some teens are changing their faces and their future thanks to a program by the Texas Juvenile Justice Department.

The department has gotten a local laser clinic to remove the tattoos of participants in the program for free.

Jacqueline Burner had the word "Love" and a drawing of a heart tattooed on her neck. "It was just a bad mistake,” Burner said. “I was young."

Jesse Diaz was proud of his West Side roots and put that message on his knuckles.

"I wanted to be cool,” Diaz said. “I wanted to fit in so I got it."

Now both are getting their tattoos removed one painful treatment at a time. They are participants in the state's re-entry program for young criminal offenders.

Jim Hurley, of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, said the teens in the program have made the decision to put the visible symbols of their past behind them.

"They truly got it,” Hurley said. “They understand the need for change and they're taking action on that."

And the MEDermis Laser Clinic is removing the tattoos for free.

"We've heard some just fantastic stories coming back, some very positive feedback," said Mike Livermore, founder and CEO of MEDermis.

The teens say they took advantage of the program to get better jobs.

Burner wants to be a cosmetologist. "I have a lot of people that turn me down that said we would hire you,” Burner said. “You have your full certifications. It's just your tattoo."

The "West Side" tattoo has not helped Diaz get a job either and he thinks its removal will.

"It'll help me in the future to get a better job because right now I apply for jobs and they're like no dice," Diaz said.

The state even presented a plaque to the clinic for its volunteer work.

Tattoo removal can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars depending on the size of the tattoo and what colors it has.


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