Tattoo artist helps gang members, those struggling turn their lives around

A suburban Chicago tattoo artist is using his talents to help people who are struggling to make dramatic changes in their lives.

Some are former gang members and others are victims forced into a world they are trying to forget.

Chris Baker has been a tattoo artist for 23 years. As a young man he struggled with his own demons before finding God and doing what he calls a complete 180.

"I wanted to do something to make a difference and use my art and use my talent to help someone change their life,” Baker said.

That is how his non-profit ‘Ink 180’ began.

"We started removing and covering gang tattoos to help people that were really trying to change their lives and start fresh,” Baker said.

And soon he says more people started coming. they are not only former gang members, but also sex trafficking survivors who have been branded, victims of domestic violence , former cutters, drug addicts, reformed sex workers and many others who also want to complete that 180.

"We are going to be celebrating the 6th anniversary of our work in October and we've done 4000 for free,” Baker said.

Alex Sullivan is a former cutter and has scars on her arms and legs. It’s a constant reminder of a dark time in her life that she wants to forget.

“It’s the last step in my recovery it's the last thing i wanted to do. It’s me closing the book on my really hard times,” Sullivan said.

Baker offers all these services for free in suburban Oswego. That’s 40 minutes southwest of Chicago. 

But this year he's taking his mission to Chicago neighborhoods after purchasing a 36 foot RV. He expects to be doing 100 removals or cover-ups a day during a weekend.

"We say we are turning painful reminders of the past into something beautiful, because that's what it's all about, getting that second chance and not being defined by what's on your body but what's in your heart,” Baker said.