Cracking the criminal code [SLIDESHOW]

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What do the following tattoos have in common besides their questionable quality and odd content? They’re all preserved in formaldehyde at the Department of Forensic Medicine at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland.

According to FOTO8 photographer Katarzyna Mirczak, the collection shows a form of prisoner communication dating back to the turn of the 20th century known as ‘pattern language.’ When pieced together with information about each criminal’s traits, temper, and past, these tattoos can help determine information about him or her.

Prison tattoos in Poland were very meaningful, not to mention painful and dangerous. The only tools available for creating body art in prisons tended to be paper clips, pins, wires, razor blades, or pieces of glass. Ouch!

Check out some of Katarzyna Mirczak’s photos below: