Longtime sheriff's chaplain Wayne Heintze has a new calling as part of his ministry: removing tattoos.
In the unassuming Houston clinic where he works, ink -- along with negative self-perceptions -- vanish, one session at a time.
"It's almost like you're able to erase a chapter of their life and turn the pages back in that book and give them the opportunity to take that different road," Heintze explained.
Many who come to the clinic are ex-offenders, like Thinisha Wright, who is a former prostitute. She believes her disappearing tattoos represent a new, drug-free life with a plan to become a social worker.
It's painful to get a tattoo removed, but for Wright, it's worth it to no longer be labeled "hated," as her tattoo reads. She and her sheriff's department counselor watch as the tattoo is "erased."
"I can't erase all the years that I've done, and I've done a lot of damage in my life," she said. "But I can start by making a new statement about how life should be."
Her former life involved time at the county jail.
Almost all the female inmates wish they hadn't "tatted up" their bodies. Chaplain Heintze meets a lot of his tattooed clients at the jail. The removal of tattoos is part of a re-entry program for offenders that also includes drug and job counseling.
"Until they get rid of the tattoo, they're not going to be able to get a good-paying job," he said. He provides the women with the tools and help they need when they leave jail.
"He knows where we've been because he's worked out there," Wright shared. "But he also knows where we could be, if we chose to change our life."
Chaplain Heintze removes the tattoos at a big discount to ex-offenders in exchange for community service. The gesture comes at a great cost, however. The chaplain revealed the clinic still hasn't broken even.
Still, for Chaplain Heintze, it's not about the money.
"I guess the easiest way to describe it is that everything in our life works great," he shared. "We have wonderful kids. We both have jobs. And for us not to try to help somebody else? That's just wrong."