Metro Gang Unit asking Legislature for money to buy tattoo removal machine

Jan 31, 2023, 6:30 PM | Updated: 7:30 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Nick Godfrey is used to all the looks. He sees people look away all the time. Godfrey also understands why. It’s not every day you see someone covered in face tattoos.

“I try not to personalize it, but it definitely doesn’t feel good,” he said. “I got denied a job at Jiffy Lube the other day.”

Tuesday morning, though, Nick Godfrey didn’t try to hide any of his tattoos. He wanted people to look, and listen, and know that gang life is now part of his past.

“I have done a lot of bad in life and I have been to prison several times. Multiple felony convictions,” he said. “But I think the hardest part is when I look in the mirror. Even though I can quit the gang and I can separate myself from those people, sometimes I can’t separate myself from seeing that in the mirror every morning.”

Godfrey is on a waitlist for the Salt Lake Metro Gang Unit’s gang tattoo removal program.

About 20 people use the machine every year at the University of Utah. However, that laser machine has been broken for a year now. Tuesday’s meeting was part of an appropriations subcommittee meeting at the Utah Capitol to ask legislators for money to buy a new one.

“We are changing lives and we’re saving lives. That’s the biggest thing we can do,” Lt. Mike Schoenfeld said.

Schoenfeld is the director of the Salt Lake Area Metro Gang Unit. He says when someone decides to leave a gang, and get rid of their gang tattoos, it is a big deal. It’s also a sign they’re ready for a different life.

“That tattoo, to them, is as important to me as this badge on my chest here, right? It’s a brotherhood. It’s a bond. It’s a family,” said Lt. Schoenfeld said.

“That was the hardest thing I ever did, leaving my gang,” Godfrey said.

However, Godfrey also knows it’s tough when people can’t see the new man behind the old ink. That’s why he was at the Capitol telling his story.

“I have never been to Capitol Hill. I have never been in any of these buildings, so it’s a good feeling. I feel like a lot of doors are opening up for me,” Godfrey said.

All it took was a legislator to ask for the money for the laser machine. Representative Jennifer Dailey-Provost spoke to the subcommittee to fund the machine for a one-time cost of $175,000.

“I, like many of you, firmly believe in giving everybody a second chance,” Rep. Dailey-Provost said to the subcommittee members.

That second chance is all Godfrey is asking for. It would make all those looks at the grocery store or at a job interview go away.

“People love successes,” Godfrey said. “So, I don’t know. Maybe I can be that success.”

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Metro Gang Unit asking Legislature for money to buy tattoo removal machine