Chief Minister Katy Gallagher says providing a safe tattooing service for the territory's prisoners is meeting tough opposition.
Ms Gallagher, who is also health minister, told the Legislative Assembly yesterday a tattooing service at Alexander Maconochie Centre had not proved popular with Corrective Services Department bureaucrats.
Another proposal aimed at controlling blood-borne diseases at the jail, a needle-and-syringe program, remains bogged down in the face of determined opposition by the prison's guards and their union, the CPSU.
The government says the use of makeshift, contraband tattoo guns and needles by prisoners could be a greater infection risk at the jail than intravenous drug use.
Ms Gallagher has said she believed a safe, professional tattooing service could be more effective in stopping the spread of blood-borne disease at the centre than the stalled needle-and-syringe program.
But under questioning from the Canberra Liberals yesterday, Ms Gallagher told the chamber no final decision had been taken on whether to proceed with a tattoo program.
''That's a decision that the government has to make at the policy level, it's not one that can be made at an operational level, and those decisions haven't been taken,'' Ms Gallagher said.
''I must say I've had significant concerns raised with me around a tattooing facility, I've also had people with me in support of it.''
Ms Gallagher said much of the opposition to the proposed tattoo program was coming from the Corrective Services Department rather than the guards. ''I must say that the advice … from Corrections was very strong, in terms of their opposition to a tattooing facility, despite it being a recommendation in a couple of reports and indeed in representations, and it has some support from staff within the AMC,'' the Chief Minister said.
''Corrections have advised me about some of the difficulties they would have.
''But the government will finalise its new blood-borne virus strategy and it will look at all the issues, including any cost associated with implementation of particular action items in that strategy.''
Concerns already raised about a prison tattoo service included the problem of managing inmates getting gang tattoos.
But the government cites reports by prisons expert Keith Hamburger, from the virology research centre the Burnett Institute, and former health minister Michael Moore, which recommended a safe tattooing facility to control the spread of HIV and hepatitis.
The Burnett Report found that 40 per cent of the prison's tattooed inmates had been given some of their tattoos by fellow inmates while behind bars.
CPSU ACT branch secretary Vince McDevitt said he and his members were still willing to consider the proposal for a tattooing service but details of the plan had not been forthcoming.
''They've never given us that, so it's hard to weigh up the merits of any proposal,'' Mr McDevitt said.
''We've never seen any detail on any proposed … tattoo service.
''The members haven't considered it and until we see the evidence and the case for it, they won't be.''