The Shocking Truth Behind the Lightning Bolt Tattoo in Prison

Originally Published February 17th, 2020

Getting inked while serving time in jail is quite popular nowadays. While it is illegal in the US prisons to get a tattoo, that didn’t stop thousands of inmates from getting one.

You may think, “how is it possible to get a tattoo while inside the prison when tattoo equipment is considered contrabands?” Well, inmates have plenty of ways to get inked while locked behind bars.

Prisoners who want to get a tattoo use paperclips, guitar strings, or the spring from a stapler as the needle. Melted plastic, shoes, or styrofoam are also used as ink, while motors from a CD or tape players as a tattoo machine.

Since getting a tattoo inside the jail is very common, several tattoo ideas are famous among inmates. One example of that is the lightning bolt tattoo.

A man getting a lightning bolt tattoo

In general, a lightning bolt tattoo signifies power, strength, and intelligence. In Greek mythology, Zeus, the supreme god of the Olympians, used a lightning bolt as a weapon. Since then, the Greeks have put a philosophical meaning to it.

However, lightning bolt tattoos, and sometimes a double or ‘SS’ bolt tattoos are way different when used in prison. Unknown to many, these tattoos are also associated with something evil.

Thunderbolt tattoos are also known as hate symbols inside the jail. A lightning bolt tattoo means that the inmate is a white supremacist. The ‘SS’ or double lightning bolts, on the other hand, which stylized exactly like the Schutzstaffel’s logo means that the inmate is a neo-Nazi. Most inmates in the US have these cracker bolts inked on their skin to let the other prisoners know that they support the Nazi party’s racist ideology.

Having a tattoo is an art, and it is also one way of expressing yourself. However, most symbols can mean several things to several people and several cultures. While a lightning bolt tattoo may hold tremendous and special meaning to you, it can also connotate a contrary interpretation to some. So before you permanently ink yourself a thunderbolt tattoo, it’s best to be culturally sensitive first.


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Franchette Agatha an author for GlobalTel


Franchette Agatha Jardin believes that everyone has the capacity to help those who are in need. She writes blogs about issues and news surrounding those in prison in the hopes of restoring a little extra faith in humanity.