Liberty Program Tattoo Removal


Tattoos often prevent people from entering the job market, pursuing educational opportunities or reaching their full potential.  The Liberty Program, a service of Santa Barbara County Public Health Department and Cottage Health System, offers individuals a new start by providing laser tattoo removal in exchange for community service.


This is a voluntary program for those wishing to make a positive change in their lives by removing visible antisocial or gang tattoos. Participants must be willing to give ten hours of community service in return for each treatment.  People are most often referred to the Liberty Program by friends, employers, school counselors, police officers, health clinics, and probation departments. Clients of the Liberty Program have gone on to enroll in higher education and have secured high paying jobs and opened access to employment opportunities.


Who is eligible?

Potential participants are interviewed and must meet the following criteria:

  • Their tattoos must be visible and/or deemed anti-social.
  • They must possess the appropriate motivation for participation.
  • They must be a resident of Santa  Barbara County.
  • They must provide community service hours at a not-for-profit agency prior to each laser treatment.
    (Most tattoos require at least five to six sessions for complete removal.)

Top five reasons clients gave for desiring tattoo removal:

  • To become a better role model for my children
  • To find better job opportunities
  • To feel better about myself
  • To be free from stereotyping and prejudices
  • To become more productive

Last year:

  • The program served 133 clients, including 36 minors and 97 adults;  626 laser treatments were given.
  • Physicians volunteered more than 80 hours.  They were: Dr. Michael Paveloff, Medical Director; Dr. David LaPatka; Dr. Douglas Duncan; Dr. Gary Novatt; Dr. Rashan Erdem; Dr. Julio Soares; and Dr. Leposavic.
  • Clients provided 4,642 hours of community service helping local charities, service organizations and churches, including Unity Shoppe, Community Kitchen, Boys & Girls Club, Carpinteria Library Homework Center, Alano Club, Catholic Charities, American Red Cross, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Special Olympics, and New House.
  • We participated in 32 community education outreach  programs serving 2,301 community members.


Education and Community Outreach

During most clinics, presentations are given by participating community service organizations such as CALM, Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center, and Santa Barbara City College Adult Education.  We also collaborate with Santa Barbara Adult Education Center,  Sheriff Department's Ancillary Services, the probation department, the School Law Enforcement Gang Task Force, and SBCC.


Representatives from the Liberty Program are available to speak to children about the obstacles tattoos present in later life.




Contact information:


The Liberty Program
(805) 681-5488

The Liberty Program is sponsored by the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department and Cottage Health System.




American Society for Dermatologic Surgery

FDA:  "Tattoos and Permanent Makeup"

FDA:  "Think Before You Ink"

Visual DX: Laser Tattoo Removal