For ex-gang members and human trafficking victims, having prominent tattoos can make escaping the old life nearly impossible. This is where Chris Baker’s non-profit comes in. Since 2011, he’s transformed more than 500 gang signs and barcodes into beautiful new designs. What’s more, he offers his services totally free of charge.
“I believe everyone deserves a second chance at life, and I want to offer them help to live their second chance,” says Baker.
To protect his clients, Baker doesn’t release before-and-after photos of his charity tattoo work. But here how he typically transforms “regret tattoos.” His clients get to choose what they want in their new inkwork.
As a former warehouse manager, Baker heard many of his employee’s regrets about joining gangs. When he was laid off from his lucrative job, he relied on tattoo commissions to pay the rent. He became a youth pastor, and though he earned much less than before, he was inspired to create Ink 180 and began covering tattoos for former members of the Latin Kings, Black Disciples and Aryan Nation.
Soon, donors began to approach him, and law enforcement wanted him to help with sex trafficking victims, mostly women whose pimps branded them with scannable barcodes. Baker was surprised to hear that this happened in the suburbs of Chicago.
“The first time you hear about it, you can’t go back to being naive,” he told the Naperville Sun.
He’s helped countless trafficked women, as well as people such as a 19 year old barred from joining the army, and former drug dealer who wanted to quit the job he’s been doing since age 8. While rehabilitation is difficult, Baker’s work helps these people avoid dodgy associates and workplace discrimination.
For more on Ink 180, read here.