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Lake County offers tattoo removal for juvenile offenders

Updated: April 27, 2014 6:26AM



The Lake County juvenile court system is offering children with any ill-advised tattoos an opportunity to erase their ink mistakes through laser removal.

Lake Superior Court Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr., who took over as juvenile court judge in January, said he’s not sure how great the need is but knows from his years on the bench in the criminal division that some defendants regret getting tattoos, particularly gang-related ones.

“Whether you like it or not, it stops you from getting a job, it stops you from progressing socially,” Stefaniak said.

“I wanted to provide the opportunity to set the tone that if you’ve done something stupid, you have a chance to make it right.”

The judge enlisted the help of tattoo artist Don Frey to offer the free service.

Frey, owner of Bugaboo Tattoo in Hammond and Merrillville, said his staff of 11 artists have seen a lot of young people who want a fast tattoo or one with shock value.

“We don’t like to do stuff that people are going to regret or have a change of heart later on,” Frey said.

It’s not uncommon for Frey and his staff to see kids who want names tattooed on their finger or necks. “These kids can’t get jobs. We won’t do those kind of tattoos, but they will get it somewhere,” Frey said.

In Indiana, anyone under 18 needs parental consent to get a tattoo.

Frey has agreed to offer the free tattoo removal service for juveniles in the Lake County system using a high-quality laser. Three of his tattoo artists are trained and certified in laser tattoo removal.

Several sessions are required, especially if the tattoo was done in layers. The pigment in the ink absorbs the energy of the laser, causing the ink particles to expand and burst. The body absorbs the particles, making the tattoo lighter with each treatment.

Frey, who has been operating in Northwest Indiana for 24 years, said he’s glad to offer something to help young people in the juvenile system. “It’s an opportunity to kind of erase those mistakes and help them have some opportunities,” he said.

Stefaniak said his secretary, Lenise Towarnicki, is handling tattoo removal appointments at (219) 660-6964.



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