Women and men who have permanent tattoos are more likely to be arrested, convicted and incarcerated, according to a study published in the journal Deviant Behavior. In the study, the authors were curious to explore the idea that there’s a stigma against tattoos — especially how that translates to the likelihood of being wrung through the criminal justice system. To find answers, the authors of the study analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, which includes data about arrests and tattoos from a large cohort of U.S. middle and high school students and their caregivers.
When comparing arrests, convictions and incarceration from those with tattoos to those without, the authors found that men with tattoos were over 2.5 times more likely to be arrested, 1.8 times more likely to be convicted and twice as likely to be incarcerated. Women with tattoos were 1.75 times more likely to be arrested, 1.68 times more likely to be convicted and 1.9 times more likely to be incarcerated compared to women without tattoos.
“The results revealed that, for males and females, having a permanent tattoo was associated with an increased risk of being arrested, convicted and incarcerated even after controlling for the effects of self-reported crime and delinquency, levels of self-control, exposure to delinquent peers and key demographic factors,” the study authors concluded. “Taken together, these results suggest that having a permanent tattoo may have a labeling effect that is used to process persons through the criminal justice system.”