Bad Ink: Visible Tattoos and Recidivism

33 Pages Posted: 23 Sep 2014

See all articles by Kaitlyn Harger

Kaitlyn Harger

West Virginia University; Florida Gulf Coast University

Date Written: September 22, 2014


This study examines whether tattoo visibility affects recidivism length of ex-offenders. Conventional wisdom suggests that visible tattoos may negatively influence employment outcomes. Additionally, research on recidivism argues that employment post-release is a main determinant of reductions in recidivism. Taken together, these two bodies of literature suggest there may be a relationship between tattoos visible in the workplace and recidivism of released inmates. Using data from the Florida Department of Corrections, I estimate a log-logistic survival model and compare estimated survival length for inmates with and without visible tattoos. The findings suggest that inmates with visible tattoos return to incarceration faster than those without tattoos or with tattoos easily hidden by clothing.

Keywords: Recidivism, Tattoos, Survival Analysis, Crime

JEL Classification: J00, J60, J71

Suggested Citation

Harger, Kaitlyn, Bad Ink: Visible Tattoos and Recidivism (September 22, 2014). Available at SSRN: or

Kaitlyn Harger (Contact Author)

West Virginia University ( email )

PO Box 6025
Morgantown, WV 26506
United States

Florida Gulf Coast University ( email )

10485 FGCU Blvd S
Ft. Myers, FL 33965-6565
United States

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