What a dark reminder that in society's underbelly convict tattoos are a sign of prestige and no good deed goes unpunished. No wonder that in cultures with "well-developed" underbellies, altruistic behavior tends to be less prevalent.
..the criminal underbelly of a society is usually a small-scale reaction to the crimes officially sanctioned by the state.
Areas where regular business forced not to go: prostitution, drugs, arms trade, shark loans.
There are perhaps places where all the economy is one large grey zone, but other than that, regular business (which does indeed come down to greed) out-competes organized crime.
Isn't this an oxymoron?
How that? If I were to sit in jail for molesting kids, the last thing I'd want is others to know about this. Pedophiles (and rapists) are the bottom in prison hierarchy.
More about the phenomenon in general:
I wonder if there really is such a thing as a commonly understood tattoo language that criminals know and enforce. Maybe in soviet times, but today?
In US I would imagine, for example, tattoos would be more gang centered and would have meaning within one gang, but not a general unified set of symbols or meanings that everyone accepts. Like say "cross on the left shoulder means abandoned by parents" or something like that.
in particular many tattoos serve the role similar to military insignia and one just isn't allowed (i.e. would be punished severely) to wear symbols or the number of it which doesn't match his/her position in the hierarchy (which is pretty firmly enforced multi-level developed one in the Russian prisons) or his/her history like number of prison terms served and severity of the crimes committed.
The reason the whole tattoo code has been developed in Russia is unique to the way prisoners have been treated, I believe. While most people live in the European part of Russia, the prisons have been traditionally located in the Asian part (Siberia). Getting an inmate to the place of incarceration could take several months or years and consisted of a series of transfers between smaller prisons. Criminal organizations needed a way to establish credentials during this process as well as inside a remote Siberian prison, far away from where the organization normally operates.