Ex-Gang Members Get A Glimpse Of The Life They Could Have And It’s Emotional


When photographer Steven Burton started the Skin Deep project, he wanted ex-gang members to see photographs of what they’d look like without tattoos. To accomplish this, Steven collected countless photographs, and spent over 400 hours painstakingly photoshopping away every tattoo from each individual, revealing what they would have looked like had their lives taken a different direction. Burton’s goal was to show how society judges these men, and, in turn, how these men judge themselves.

Emotions pour out of these individuals when they see themselves without tattoos.


As if freed from their past, for just a few minutes, these men suddenly open up about their life and their regrets. They speak candidly about the people they’ve hurt, from friends, to parents, to their own children. They confess how much of their lives they’ve wasted in jail cells or in pursuit of a gang lifestyle. And as they look at their tattooless image, you can almost see in their face a glimmer of hope that maybe hasn’t been there in a while. It’s as if they can see life beyond their past for the first time. On the Kickstarter page for Skin Deep, Burton writes, “This book puts a very human face on a group of people that our society is so often too quick to demonize.”

The photos from the Skin Deep project will be turned into a book, and a percentage of the profits will go to Homeboy Industries.


The Skin Deep project has been a massive undertaking by Steven Burton, as well as the fantastic Homeboy Industries. For those who don’t know, Homeboy Industries is a Los Angeles-based non-profit that “provides hope, training, and support to formerly gang-involved and previously incarcerated men and women allowing them to redirect their lives and become contributing members of our community.” With these collected photos, Steve and company are looking to turn this project into a book, around 172 pages they estimate. However, the project still needs funding from supporters — as of today, they are about $7,000 short, with five days to go. You can pledge money for this project at the Skin Deep Kickstarter page.

For anyone who is interested, Homeboy Industries performs around 3,000 free tattoo removal treatments each month. For more information, check out Homeboy Industries’ website here.


The transformations in the video are shocking.

They also reveal a truth about the stigma behind men and women with tattoos. Face tattoos in particular.

And so many of the men in the video conceded to feeling emotional about their tattoo-less images.

So many of the men in the images admitted to feel pained by the isolation and stigma of their tattoos. Some detailed stories of being shunned on buses and avoided in streets.

Some of them even teared up.

While others admitted that their tattoos sometimes made them feel so limited in their potential they’d considered ending their lives.

And many of them opened up about how their tattoo transformations would have affected their family lives.

One of the video’s subjects confessed that his tattoos often made him want to isolate himself from his kids so they wouldn’t grow up to be like him.

READ: Homeboy Industries Removes Tattoos For Former Gang Members And Released Prisoners

This Mom Could Spend A Year In Jail Over Homemade Ceviche

Food & Drink

This Mom Could Spend A Year In Jail Over Homemade Ceviche

pburnham / Flickr

This is Mariza Ruelas. She’s a mother from Stockton, California.

Credit: Mariza Ruelas / Facebook

CREDIT: Credit: Mariza Ruelas / Facebook

Ruelas loves to cook. She was a member of a Facebook group called “209 Food Spot,” a space where she says locals — the “209” is the area code for Stockton — shared and traded recipes.

Last year, Ruelas shared a recipe for ceviche with the group. Ruelas was then contacted by someone in the group asking to buy ceviche from her.

Credit: KTXL / Fox 40

CREDIT: Credit: KTXL / Fox 40

After Ruelas agreed to sell her ceviche, she learned the buyer was actually an undercover investigator for San Joaquin County in California.

Credit: HBO


Ruelas, along with several other “209 Food Spot” group members, were then charged with operating a food facility and a business without proper permits in San Joaquin County.

Credit: KTXL / Fox 40

CREDIT: Credit: KTXL / Fox 40

Ruelas, who refused to accept a plea deal, now faces up to a year in prison if convicted. She took to Facebook to explain why she refused to plead guilty.

“The offer they made to me was 3yrs probation, 80 hrs community service, plea guilty to 1 of the 2 misdemeanors and a $235 fine. Now the reason I denied the offer besides the obvious of not wanting to ruin my record with a misdemeanor was because everyone else was offered 1 yr probation, 40hrs community service, plea guilty to 1 of the 2 misdemeanors and a $235 fine. Why did the DA make my offer worse than the others if we all had same charges? Also never did the DA post a warning to the page. Never did anyone come with any reports of getting food poisoning.”

Ruelas told KTXL that San Joaquin County has it all wrong. She says group members sometimes sold their food to recoup expenses for the recipes they posted and potlucks that were organized by the group.

Credit: Mariza Ruelas / Facebook

CREDIT: Credit: Mariza Ruelas / Facebook

Ruelas added that group members sometimes paid for a dish when they didn’t have their own dish to trade. “Somebody would be like, ‘Oh, I don’t have anything to trade you but I would love to buy a plate,'” said Ruelas to KTXL.

San Joaquin Deputy District Attorney Kelly McDaniel told KTXL that she enforces the law — she doesn’t write it.

Credit: KTXL / Fox 40

CREDIT: Credit: KTXL / Fox 40

“Food prepared in a facility that does not inspect it creates a risk to the public,” said McDaniel. (They should probably learn how to spell “ceviche,” though.)

Watch KTXL’s full story here.

READ: Someone at LAX was Busted for Bringing in 450 Illegal Tamales from Mexico

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