NORTH PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Joshua Perry has always loved to draw.
That’s why he turned his passion into a profession by becoming a tattoo artist.
“I just knew tattooing was my calling,” Perry said.
Perry opened Ink Me Tattoos on Charles Street in 2015.
It was a lifelong dream he never thought would become a reality.
Until it was.
“I can’t believe I’m here,” Perry said. “I just can’t believe that this is real.”
Perry’s path to becoming a successful business owner was a rocky one.
He was arrested on drug charges back in 2003.
“I was found guilty two years later and sentenced to 10 years in prison,” he said.
Perry said he will never forget the decade he spent behind bars.
“I’ve seen things no human being should see,” he said. “To be able to change in there … it takes a lot of willpower and a lot of self confidence.”
It was also where he learned the art of tattooing.
“In prison I was drawing a lot,” Perry recalled. “I had one guy pressing me saying, ‘You should do a tat’ … and I just tried it.”
“I broke a rule in there, because it’s not legal in prison,” he continued. “But it was a means of a way out when I got free … but I knew it was a rule worth breaking.”
Perry said correctional officers caught him several times giving fellow inmates tattoos.
The punishment was solitary confinement.
“[Correctional officers] would ask me when I was going to stop going down there, and I said, ‘I’ve got nothing to go home to and this is my opportunity.'”
In an effort to turn his life around, Perry put together a business plan while in prison.
Perry said one conversation he had with a correctional officer the day he was released will always stick with him.
“The [correctional officer] told me while I was walking out, ‘I’ll see you when you get back Perry,'” he recalled. “I told him, ‘You’ll see me on TV before you see me back in here.'”
Perry hasn’t been back to prison since.
It’s not like he would have time anyway, since business is booming.
“When we’ve got 30 to 40 people in the shop waiting for tattoos, I look and I just think, ‘They don’t know my story,'” he said. “It’s just amazing. I mean … look at what I created.”
When asked what he would say to those who are looking to turn their lives around, Perry’s message was simple.
“You can do it,” he said. “If I can do it, you can do it.”