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Stenography by Tattoo

A man who was convicted of running a marijuana smuggling ring and sentenced to 30 years in prison went to great lengths to makes sure that he doesn’t forget the details of his crimes; he had them tattooed onto his back.

While it’s true that every tattoo has some sort of story behind it few are as detailed and straightforward as the ink that Gilberto Santiesteban Jr. got while in prison. Just by looking at the tattoo you can follow Santiesteban’s story from arrest to sentencing, it's almost as if the courtroom stenographer tattooed the details of the case directly onto his back.

The enormous back piece is centered around a stylized map of the state of Florida with prison bars. Santiesteban pays homage to his heritage with a Cuban flag behind the map. On the sides the names of most of the people involved with his conviction are written; the list includes the arresting officers, attorneys for both the prosecution and defense, and the judge who presided over the trial, according to the Miami Herald.

The location of the tattoo suggests that Santiesteban may be trying to put all of his troubles behind him; it could symbolize that he has turned his back on his former self. There is some nobility in wanting to remember your crimes so that you don’t repeat them and choosing to carry a tattooed record of those crimes as a reminder. On the other hand, the fact that Santiesteban included all of the names in the tattoo suggests something a little bit more sinister. It's more than likely that Santiesteban was just trying to document the details of his case but there is something disconcerting about the level of specificity in his ink.

In an interview with the Miami Herald Luis I. Guerra, Santiesteban’s defense attorney, said that it was “creepy” to have his name included in his client’s tattoo.

Since Santiesteban has been in custody since 2012 it means that he got his ink while in prison. While tattooing is prohibited in federal prisons inmates have been finding ways to get inked behind bars for years.