Prisoners at two New Zealand jails are getting "in-house" tattoo removal sessions - as long as they pay out of their own pockets.
The new service is aimed at cutting reoffending and is being offered to inmates at Auckland Prison and Auckland Region Women's Corrections Facility.
A South Auckland-based clinic visits prisons and removes visible tattoos on faces, necks and lower arms, at a cost of $30 a session.
"Four to six treatments are usually required to fully remove the tattoo, however this can depend on the method, ink and equipment used to create the tattoo," Corrections northern regional commissioner Jeanette Burns said.
A number of prisoners had requested tattoo removal.
"Removing them greatly increases job prospects and helps with their reintegration."
The treatment is provided by the Mangere Community Health Trust, a not-for-profit organisation. It offers the same service to people in the community. The $30 sessions cost the same for prisoners with visible tattoos as for beneficiaries.
Corrections introduced a taxpayer-funded tattoo removal programme in 2000 before terminating it six years later amid a public outcry.
Before then, the recipients included mobster John Gillies - who stabbed a Gisborne constable in the neck, chest and thigh in 1993, and bashed two more police officers in 2004.
He had his "Mongrel Mob Forever" and bulldog tattoo removed from his face, at a cost to the taxpayer of $4500.
Usually prisoners requiring tattoo removal would have to leave the premises for treatment, decided on a case-by-case basis. "Bringing the clinic to the prison alleviates a lot of risk," Burns said.
Mike Williams, chief executive of penal reform group the NZ Howard League, welcomed the move. "It's a positive step to help prisoners rejoin the workforce."