Canada: Prison Tattoo Experiment Aims to Cut Disease Rates
March 14, 2006
The Bath Institution near Kingston, Ontario, is one of six Canadian prisons participating in the Safer Tattooing Practices Initiative, a pilot program aimed at reducing the spread of blood-borne diseases like hepatitis C among inmates.
The $700,000 Canadian ($606,000 US) Correctional Services of Canada program is funded by the Federal Initiative to Address HIV/AIDS in Canada. According to CSC, incarcerated men in Canada have HIV infection rates seven to 10 times higher than the general population and hepatitis C rates that are 30 times higher.
The Bath program began in August and will be reviewed after one year. Tattoo artists undergo safety training and are supervised by prison staff, who supply the needles and ink. Dave Carmody, Bath's social program officer overseeing the tattoo shop, discusses proposed tattoos with inmates prior to their signing up for a session. No letters or dates are allowed, and tattoos above the collarbone or below the wrist are not permitted, said Carmody. About 40 inmates are currently on the waiting list for a tattoo, he said.
Though the pilot program has proven popular with inmates, the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers argues it endangers workers and will likely be ineffective at stopping the spread of infectious diseases. Sylvain Martel, the union's president, said illegal tattooing is entrenched in the prison subculture, and the program will do little to change this. Martel said he fears needles stolen from the shops could be used against prison guards. UCCO, he said, has not ruled out taking its concerns to politicians.
Halifax Daily News
03.04.06; CanWest News Service
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.