The Nueces County District Attorney's Office has helped make it possible for juvenile offenders and sex trafficking victims to get tattoos removed for free.
This morning, Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez and his staff presented the Nueces County Juvenile Justice Volunteers, Inc. with a $3,000 check. The money comes from drug forfeiture funds, which is money seized by the D.A.'s Task Force. That money will help bring a tattoo removal program to the center.
The volunteer organization, which offers mentoring and support services to juvenile offenders, hopes to help juveniles who are incarcerated or on probation who have been tattooed by gang members and sex trafficking survivors who have been tattooed by their traffickers.
During this morning's news conference, District Attorney Mark Gonzalez spoke about the importance of the program and explained why he supports it.
Gonzalez, himself bears several tattoos, but he says unlike juvenile offenders and sex trafficking victims, he had free choice to ink himself.
"When you're very young or a victim of sex trafficking and the person who victimized you, brands you ... so, that way everyone knows who you belong to," he said, "What better way to help the healing process? I'm covered in tattoos and I choose to express myself that way. I think that individuals who are trying to change that should have that availability and I'm thankful for this program," Gonzalez said.
The Nueces County Juvenile Justice Volunteers, Inc. President Becki Mohat hopes this new program called "Uninked and Set Free" will give juveniles a fresh start.
"Most of the kids would like their tattoos removed and a lot of these kids have been in gangs. They no longer want to be affiliated with the gang but also some of them were just stupid and just young and got a tattoo. Now, they've realized the mistake they've made and need help," Mohat explained.
Mohat said the program costs $16,000. That includes the machine, supplies, and insurance the program needs. She said several groups have made donations but today's donation from the D.A.'s office has helped them reach their goal.
"We've met that goal. So, we're ready to go. We will need continual funding because any program needs to money to operate but we are fully funded at this time," Mohat said.
She's hoping to have the program running by the end of the year.
MInors who would like to have their tattoos removed will need permission from a parent or guardian. Once they receive permission, the teens will be required to go through a ten week program called "The 7 Habits of a Highly Effective Teen". Mohat described the program as another form of teaching that helps teens be successful.
Once they complete the program, the Nueces County Juvenile Justive Volunteers, Inc. will remove the tattoo for them.
If interested, contact Paul Flores with the Nueces County Juvenile Justice Center for donation or tattoo removal information at 361-561-6130 or click here.