The federal prison service says setting up tattoo parlours and needle-exchange programs behind bars would help reduce the spread of hepatitis C.
A Correctional Service memo obtained under the Access to Information Act advises Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale the proposals “warrant consideration” to round out existing and planned measures to fight hepatitis and HIV in prison.
Prison tattooing and needle-exchange programs for drug users have generated intense controversy over the years and the memo urges the minister to conduct detailed research before embarking on a syringe needle program in particular.
Corrections ombudsman Ivan Zinger recently called on the Correctional Service to bring back its safe tattooing program.
He says tattooing in prison frequently involves sharing and reusing dirty homemade equipment — linked to higher rates of hepatitis C and HIV among inmates — and there is often no safe means of disposing of used tattoo needles.
In 2005, the prison service began a pilot program involving tattoo rooms in six federal institutions, but the then-Conservative government ended it in 2006.