Ink and you miss it

Tax­payer in line to fund re­moval of in­mate tat­toos

Sunday Star-Times - - NEWS -

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

Kelvin Davis

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