On Tuesday, July 30, 2013, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Medical Services Bureau (MSB) and the Education Based Incarceration Bureau (EBI) were recognized by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for receiving an achievement award from the National Association of Counties (NACo). Medical Services Bureau was recognized for the development and implementation of an inmate Tattoo Removal Program and the Education Based Incarceration Bureau received an award for the implementation of the Maximizing Education Reaching Individual Transformation (MERIT) Master’s program within the jails.
Inmate Tattoo Removal Program
Through a collaborative partnership between the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Medical Services Bureau (MSB), and Inmate Services Bureau (ISB), a Tattoo Removal Clinic was established to provide a medically supervised tattoo removal program for incarcerated inmates. In addition to removing tattoos at no charge, the program was initiated to assist inmates in their reintegration back into the community. Participants have primarily requested the removal of tattoos associated with gang affiliation, monikers, profanity, and nudity located on their face, neck or hands. The conceptual belief, and expressed statements of participants, has been to improve the inmates’ sense of self image and affectively increase their opportunity for employment upon release from custody.
The Tattoo Removal Clinic, which began in February 2012, continues to experience an increase in demand. The program, which is overseen and operated by trained medical personnel, initially began with 25 volunteer inmates for tattoo removal treatments. At the present date, the current number of volunteer inmates currently receiving treatment is 568; and the number continues to increase.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department embraces the practice of creating a custody setting which offers educational opportunities and coping skills for incarcerated inmates. However, prior to the development and initiation of this program, tattooed inmates were not afforded the opportunity to reduce or eliminate the stigma of their appearance based on their tattoos. The development and initiation of this program has allowed the Sheriff’s Department to utilize technology and medical care to provide a life changing service.
The “MERIT Masters” program was created to expand one of the Education Based Incarceration Bureau’s premiere programs called Maximizing Education Reaching Individual Transformation. By enlisting the assistance of inmate students to facilitate courses covering primary areas of one’s life such as recovery, employment, financial, legal, medical, family, and recreation, MERIT Masters has changed the way we do business in the jails.
The idea of inmates teaching inmates has proven to be successful as general population male and female inmates are taught life skills by those who understand them best – someone who has similar life and living experiences. Since the inception of the program in July of 2012, hundreds of inmates have been positively impacted.
Prior to teaching and throughout the process, the inmate teachers are trained in adult learning theory, facilitation, basic lesson planning, basic curriculum design, and leadership principles.
The program helps students create and organize goals and objectives they will need to address in the few months following their release from custody. To qualify for this program, students must be graduates of a 12 week MERIT program, pass an oral interview, and be recommended by Sheriff’s Department staff.
A formal acknowledgment for earning these achievement awards were made by Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas at the Hall of Administration. Assistant Sheriff Terri McDonald, Commander Kelley Fraser, Medical Services Bureau Captain Kevin Kuykendall and EBI Bureau’s Captain Michael Bornman were all in attendance at the ceremony.