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Tattoo service for prisoners faces hostility


Noel Towell

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.''


  • Not to popular with Mr & Mrs Joe & Joan Smith taxpayer either Ms Gallagher, a bit like all ACT Labor politically correct and social engineering visions.
    Bring on that / those elections.

    Nitro Gangster
    Date and time
    May 09, 2012, 9:29AM
    • Kate Gallagher you have to find another job along with your best mate Julia Gillard. The elections can't come around fast enough, state and federal.

      Mass sackings in the ACT plus the introduction of a carbon tax and all you want to do is waste money on tattoos for prisoners!

      They go to prison for a reason Kate.

      Date and time
      May 09, 2012, 9:58AM
      • Why not bring in a beautician as well?! The rubbish priorities of this ACT Labor Government astonish me.

        Date and time
        May 09, 2012, 12:50PM
        • Maybe put in another P2P camera to pay for this Katy?

          Date and time
          May 09, 2012, 1:32PM
          • They already have put in a new p2p

            Date and time
            May 09, 2012, 4:08PM
        • Making them sick because we hate them feels good - Ha! But then we have to pay for them to become well - Oh!

          We should be honest and not talk about human rights and correction - except they are somebody else's family members and will be coming out soon.

          Hopefully we haven't degraded them and they aren't too angry when they do. But no wonder half return within two years - costing $100,000 a year each! And hurt us before they return.

          It is cheaper and makes us safer to reconcile them quickly rather than disturb our community with our own anger, trying to exclude community problems. Upholding our values means giving respect as well as demanding it - prison officers are employed to do that, not as instruments of our anger.

          Date and time
          May 09, 2012, 6:02PM
          • I can't believe this is even being considered. Why not throw in a day spa, prostitutes and a bar? I for one will NOT be supporting this 'initiative'!

            Date and time
            May 10, 2012, 8:19AM
            • DavidG - The key word is 'another'.

              Date and time
              May 10, 2012, 10:14PM
              • The above comments are a bit short-sighted. Safe tattooing saves money.
                If the prisoners get sick with HIV and Hep B, who pays for their treatment? The taxpayer, of course. So it's cheaper for us to pay for safe tattoos.
                When prisoners with incurable STDs are released society pays again, as more and more people catch these things, the proportion of innocent bystanders catching them grows.
                Don't kid yourself that only immoral people catch these things. Plenty of people living faithfully in committed monogamous relationships have caught STDs when their partner has not been as monogamous as they thought.

                Date and time
                May 14, 2012, 8:00AM
                Comments are now closed

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