The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) is planning to set up tattoo parlours in six federal prisons this year. Health officials hope the parlours will reduce the spread of infectious diseases, including hepatitis C.
Dr. Francoise Bouchard, the director general of health services for CSC, talked about the pilot project at a hepatitis C conference in Vancouver. One study, she says, shows more than a quarter of all federal inmates have hepatitis C.
Bouchard says there's no way of knowing how many picked up the disease from tattooing, but she says at least 45 per cent of inmates engage in it with whatever they can get their hands on. "All kinds of things, metal, old metal equipment," she said.
So, as a pilot project, CSC will set up tattoo parlours in six federal prisons. The sites have not been chosen. Bouchard says the shops will be staffed by inmates.
A delegate to the conference, Michelle Graham, says it's a good start. Graham is a caseworker at a halfway house for federal offenders in Windsor, Ont.
But she is disappointed CSC has not set up a needle exchange program. "If they are going to choose or start a pilot (project), I see the needle exchanges as taking priority."
When asked about needle exchanges, Bouchard would only say the decision is not up to her, but lies with federal politicians and managers at CSC.
Written by CBC News Online, 29 March 2004 (www.cbc.ca)