Ink and you miss it
Taxpayer in line to fund removal of inmate tattoos
THE Government is considering reviving a tattoo removal programme for prisoners inked with facial, neck and arm tattoos.
The scheme was dumped in 2006 after a public outcry when taxpayers forked out $4500 for a violent white supremacist to have his ‘‘Mongrel Mob Forever’’ tattoo lasered off.
But menacing body art – such as swastikas or gang symbols – is affecting prisoners’ prospects of a fresh start.
Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis has asked the department to look at resurrecting the initiative.
The plans are in the very early stages – and it’s not yet clear if prisoners, or the taxpayer, will pay. Each tattoo costs between $300 and $2000 to erase and many prisoners have multiple etchings.
Corrections staff are also drawing up plans to punish inmates who get a tattoo behind bars.
Former white supremacist Carl Drewett, who had the word ‘‘Skinhead’’ tattooed across his forehead after getting drunk in prison, says his life improved ‘‘tenfold’’ after it was removed.
‘‘I didn’t get judged. I didn’t get looked at in fear. I could go out with my family, and people weren’t looking the other way.’’ He also found work. Drewett supports bringing back tattoo removal in prisons, but he thought it should be limited to face, neck and hands.
‘‘Everything else you can cover up, and is your issue to deal with.’’
Prison chief custodial officer Neil Beales says some visible tattoos make it difficult for inmates to reintegrate into the community, get a job and put their criminal associations behind them.
‘‘It kind of beggars belief, really, the rather insane things people will tattoo across their forehead or cheeks or around their necks. There have even been some situations where I have seen prisoners who have tattooed themselves in prison by use of a mirror and then they get the words back to front on their forehead.’’
Prisoners can apply for a Work and Income grant for laser treatment – which is capped at $1500 per year.
Beales says Corrections staff are working on payment options – and whether prisoners would contribute to some of the costs, or pay all of them. ‘‘My personal view is that if someone is serious about tattoo removal to further