Teenagers on a bus
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Teenagers get rid of their tattoos - and start a new life

14 August 2013 Last updated at 02:32 BST

Several teenagers in the US state of Colorado have decided to leave their gangs. And they are getting rid of their tattoos.

Removing their tattoos is the first stop toward starting a new life. But the process is not easy. One former gang member, Kendra, who is 20 years old, had 11 tattoos on her face, neck, arm and hands. She has had seven of the tattoos removed.

She no longer wants to be part of the gang. Instead, she wants to become a nurse.

Another former gang member, Leonel Garcia, 18, is also going through the process. He is having a gang tattoo, "Salsa Playboys", removed from his hand.

These young people are being helped through the transition by former gang member Gerardo Lopez, who works for an organisation, Gang Rescue and Support (Grasp). He is also getting his own tattoos removed.

Produced for the BBC by Anna Bressanin

Altered States is a series of video features published every Wednesday on the BBC News website which examines how shifting demographics and economic conditions affects America on a local level.