Changing Lives by Removing Tattoos at Oregon’s Women’s Prison


WILSONVILLE — Tattoos can be reminders of the past and a lifestyle that is best left behind. For the women incarcerated at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility (CCCF) they have the opportunity to start anew as they transition towards becoming members of our community.

In 2018, the Department of Corrections (DOC) in partnership with Portland Community College (PCC) began a tattoo removal program at CCCF, Oregon’s only women’s institution. Tammy Kennedy, a PCC employee who contracts with the institution, runs this life-changing initiative along with the CCCF hair design program. Ms. Kennedy has a certificate in Advanced Esthetics, which she pursued in part, to bring additional treatment, skills, training and certification options to the incarcerated women.

Removing Tattoos Empowers

As she operates the tattoo removal laser she says, “Many of these women come to our facilities with anti-social tattoos. Whether they are gang, drug, or domestic abuse related tattoos, helping them remove that part of their past is rewarding work. Many of these tattoos were directly related to what brought them here. What they once thought was permanent can now be a thing of the past.”

One incarcerated woman wrote about her tattoo removal experience, “For 22 years, I’ve had a shackle around my ankle, the permanent brand of a past abusive relationship that I’ve had to be reminded of every day as I put on my shoes. The tattoo removal program that you brought to Coffee Creek is changing that.”

To date, over 400 people have been treated and approximately 925 tattoos have been, or are in the process of, being removed. Fifty-three tattoos have been completely removed. The long-term goal is to expand the tattoo removal program to the men in DOC custody, who comprise 92 percent of DOC’s population. With over 95 percent of the men and women in DOC custody being released at some time, the objective it to prepare them to be good citizens and neighbors.

To read more about future ready Oregonians, check out our ‘Future Ready‘ section!

About Author

Jennifer Black is a Communications Manager at the Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC). The mission of the DOC is to hold offenders accountable for their actions and reduce the risk of future criminal behavior. The department has custody of adults sentenced to prison for more than 12 months, housing approximately 14,900 adults in 14 state prisons throughout the state.

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