Ex-Gang Member Speaks Out About Tattoos

Tattoos make breaking away from the gang lifestyle almost impossible. They reveal who you've fought, where you've served time and the crimes you've committed.

Newschannel 10's Marissa Bagg met with a man who is trying to give up gangs, but has tattoos that remind him constantly of his ties to them. 

Gabriel Robles joined a gang and got his first tattoo when he was 12. It's been eleven years and although he's broken away from gang life, he says it will always be a part of him.
"Once you're in a gang you're hooked for life. I've learned to say no and stay away that's why I've moved from town to town and somehow they always end up finding me, they have a crazy way of finding me, and trouble follows me most of the time," says Robles.
   It follows Robles because of the tattoos he has had done over the years - to fit in with his crew.
   Most of them are gang related, and they are hard to miss.
"If you want to represent and respect in the gang and the outside world to be a gang member, respect from your homeboys you're going to have to get a tattoo or beat someone up or shoot somebody," says Robles.
Because of his tattoos Robles says he has been in fights in and out of prison.
   But behind bars the violence is often more brutal.
"Especially in jail if they see you are from another county or another state and you have zipcodes or 13 they're going to start trouble with you."
   Robles served time in several jails for assault and other crimes, until he decided enough was enough.
"I had to pay for my life everyday, every time I had to pay for my life. I got stabbed a couple of times and I got tired of it I was always fighting and I didn't have a family then it was just me and my crew."
   Now Robles is making a name for himself volunteering with the Bovina Fire Department.
"Back then I was beating up people and hitting them with bats and here I am taking them out of cars and giving them hope. Now I have my kids and my wife and the fire department that's my gang now, I have to make the best of it now."
 But no matter how hard Robles tries to lead a normal life, he says his history still creates problems.
 "Still til today I'm still running into problems I got shot at not too long ago because of my old lifestyle."
  Robles says he has aspirations to enter law enforcement. He already has an associates degree in criminal justice.
   He hopes his past won't haunt him as he reaches for those goals.
"I don't know with my record if I can be a Sheriff or not but thats something I'd like to do so I can give other guys like me a chance and talk to them about what they can do besides gang bang," says Robles.  
  There are tattoo removal programs funded by the state for ex-gang members who want to get rid of their tattoos.
   Log onto our website to find the program here in Amarillo that serves the entire panhandle.

For information on the Amarillo Area Tattoo Removal Program log onto http://www.oag.state.tx.us/criminal/tattoo_remove.shtml

or call (806) 212-3515

Also for those interested in working in the prison system contact Lt. Dean at 806-381-7080 ext.8165 or visit our website www.tdcj.state.tx.us.

"We read the tattoos and it tells us who they are and where they came from and the time they've done, the tattoos tell us a story,"  Newschannel 10's
 joins us from Amarillo's Clements Unit with part one of an in-depth