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PBSO program helps former gang members

Posted at 8:39 PM, Dec 29, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-30 08:52:09-05

Imagine if you had to wear every bad decision you ever made on your face or on your body. This is the case for many former gang members who are trying to turn over a new lead, but are still tattooed with their past life. Thanks to a program provided by the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, they are getting new hope for a clean slate. 

When Christopher Sharpe for out of jail he thought he could turn his life around.

"I couldn’t get a job, walked in a Publix and everyone gave me dirty looks," said Sharpe. 

Gang-related tattoos on his face and arms kept Sharpe from being seen as a changed man. 

"People will read you by what you look like, initially if you look like a criminal, they’re going to treat you like a criminal," added Sharpe. 

When he learned of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office gang tattoo removal program he saw his second chance.

"We can really change someone’s life tremendously because we can get rid of the tattoo with literally no scar, no evidence that there was ever a tattoo there," said Dr. Brent Schillinger, Dermatologist.

Through the Palm Beach County Medical Society, Dr. Schillinger partners with the Sheriff's Office for the program. After a just a few laser tattoo removal sessions, Sharpe no longer has tattoos on his face, and the ones on his arms are almost gone. 

"I don’t get judged anymore," said Sharpe. 

The change didn't come painlessly. 

"It hurts way more than getting them done," said Sharpe about the pain, describing it like touching a hot light bulb, but he says the benefits were worth it.

Now Sharpe has a steady job and is trying to get back into college. He can't completely erase his past, but now he has a future. 

"It's changed my life around," added Sharpe. 

In order to be accepted into the program, you have to meet several requirements:

- You have to fill out an application

-Write a one-page essay about why you want to make the change

-Complete 50 hours of community service 

-Interview with a gang detective. 

For more information or to learn how to apply contact Marcia Bahia at 561-688-4002 or email at bahiam@pbso.org. 

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