One mans pork is another mans second chance.
That seems to be message in a brouhaha being stirred up over a tattoo-removal program thats included in the fiscal 2009 spending bill being considered on Capitol Hill.
Some members of Congress are crying pork-barrel spending, but officials at Providence Health & Services say a $200,000 federal appropriation slated to help the provider purchase a new tattoo-removing laser could help accomplish several of the Obama administrations top priorities: Move unemployed citizens into jobs, beef up volunteerism, and help some Southern California residents continue their education.
Funding for the laser was supported by Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and is included in the still-pending federal budget, which was recently approved by the House of Representatives. Providence plans to use the laser to expand a 10-year-old program that removes gang-sign tattoos. The program, run out of the Providence Center for Community Health Improvement in North Hollywood, has removed tattoos from 12,000 former gang members, helping them to get jobs with employers who otherwise would not hire them, Providence officials say. To date, more than 80% of clients coming through the program have gotten better positions or promotions after tattoo removal, and nearly 90% have gone back to school. The program has also been responsible for generating more than 190,000 hours of community services since clients pay for their laser treatments by volunteering.
Berman spokesman Fred Flores says the tattoo removal program not only changes the lives of gang members, but actually helps make the streets safer for all Southern California residents. When former gang members with these tattoos go walking around, they become targets of drive-bys and other shootings, and the shooters can miss their targets and hit someone else, Flores said.