Tattoos are growing more and more popular every year. Going under the needle for a new permanent piece of your body has gone from a rebellious act, reserved for the edgy and the brave, to a mainstream move which everyone seems to be drawn to.

No matter how you might feel about ink, it’s common to think that tattoos are something done purely for aesthetic effect. But that preconceived notion isn’t just wrong – it could be dangerous.

More often than not, tattoos have a special meaning behind them. It could be the initials of a deceased loved one, a flower that holds a special place in your heart, or even just an item that makes you happy!

However, not every tattoo meaning is heartwarming. Some of them are red flags, warnings to others that the person flaunting this ink is a danger, typically because of prison time or gang involvement.

Here are some of the most popular “warning sign” tattoos, what they mean, and why you might want to stay away.



Cross On Chest

A popular tattoo in Russian prisons, this chest tattoo symbolizes a “Prince of Thieves.” This is the highest rank a convict can achieve and are generally worn by higher-ups in the Russian mob.

Take note if the cross has any other designs on it; for example, bells symbolize freedom and a tiger on the chest is symbolic of aggression toward the police.

The Numbers 14 and 88

If you see these numbers tattooed anywhere on someone’s body, this person is associated with the white supremacy groups.

Fourteen represents 14 words, which are a quote by Nazi leader David Lane: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White Children.” The 88 is shorthand for the 8th letter of the alphabet twice, HH, which represents Heil Hitler.


These letters stand for “Evil, Wicked, Mean, Nasty” and are most commonly found across the knuckles. This acronym doesn’t stand for any particular gang, but it’s often found on prison inmates/former inmates and is giving a nod to their general (unpleasant) disposition.

Three Dots

The three dots tattoo is a common prison tattoo that represents “mi vida loca,” or “my crazy life.” It’s not associated with any particular gang, but with the gang lifestyle itself. This tattoo is typically found on the hands or around the eyes.

On the other hand, this tattoo can also carry some religious significance, usually representing Christianity’s holy trinity.


To ID more common gang or prion tattoos, make sure to watch the video below.