Last Updated: Monday, December 4, 2006 12:22 PM ET
The Canadian Press
The Conservative government is cutting a safe-tattoo program for federal prisoners despite concerns the move will increase the spread of AIDS and hepatitis C.
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day announced Monday that the government would not continue a pilot project that offered tattoos to inmates.
"Our government will not spend taxpayers' money on providing tattoos for convicted criminals," Day said.
"Our priority is to have an effective federal corrections system that protects Canadians, while providing inmates with access to acceptable health-care and treatment programs."
Supporters of the pilot project said the move is a mistake. They argue that safe tattooing saves millions of dollars in health care and social costs by reducing the number of AIDS and hepatitis C cases.
Day said Corrections Canada, in partnership with Health Canada and outside organizations, would continue to run health and education programs to help reduce the transmission of infectious diseases.
Tattoo parlours at six federal prisons across Canada have been sitting idle since the one-year project ended Sept. 30.
The $600,000 project was aimed at reducing the spread of AIDS and hepatitis C by providing safe tattooing using clean needles.
Inmates are up to 10 times more likely to contract HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS, than the general population. Their likelihood of contracting hepatitis C is also about 30 times higher.
Hepatitis C is a blood-born virus that often attacks the liver and can be fatal. One of the most common methods of transmission is getting a tattoo from equipment that is unsanitary or was used earlier on an infected person.
The pilot program educated inmates about safe tattooing while also training selected inmates on infectious diseases and infection prevention. Selected prisoners were also trained to perform tattoos on fellow inmates.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation hailed the move, calling the project a waste of taxpayers' money.
The federation estimated the annual cost to taxpayers to expand the program to all 58 federal correctional facilities at $5.8 million, plus $2.6 million in startup costs.