The Government won't be reviving a tattoo removal scheme in prisons, thanks to generous businesses.

A taxpayer-funded scheme was scrapped in 2006, after public outcry over the expensive removal of a violent white supremacist's tattoo.

The Government sought advice last year on how a scheme might work.

But tattoo removalists are now voluntarily subsidising services at some prisons — and Corrections hopes to expand that throughout the country.


Speaking exclusively to Newstalk ZB, Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis said it was wonderful: "We're happy with what's happening now, that each prison has their own regime, they work with local providers, those local providers will provide a subsidy out of the goodness of their hearts."

A briefing to Davis in May said many people in Corrections' care had highly offensive tattoos; of particular concern were those on the face, including full-face "war masks".

It also talked about the risk of infection and gang influence from in-prison tattooing.

"We know that having some tattoos, particularly on your face, particularly gang-related, or on your arms where they're visible, may be a barrier to achieving work," Davis said.

"We think it's appropriate that there is an opportunity for prisoners — if they wish — to have these tattoos removed, and help them reintegrate back into society and hopefully into work."

Davis was grateful to businesses for charging inmates as little as one sixth of the market rate. He had seen reports of one session usually costing as much as $300 — but prisoners were charged about $50 per session.

Davis also spoke of the importance of prisoners paying for it and his hope they'd be less likely to get more tattoos.

"For a prisoner to come up with $50 a session is a lot of money for them, and it just means — excuse the pun — they've got skin in the game."


Corrections says removing a tattoo can take six to eight sessions, and up to six weeks between sessions, meaning the process can take a year.

Prison directors have been advised to develop tattoo prevention plans, as part of a wider gang management strategy.

And work is under way to educate prisoners about the risk of contracting diseases such as HIV and hepatitis through unhygienic tattooing.

Corrections says prisons provide administrative support to local tattoo removalists who subsidise their services, and such partnerships are being developed across the prison network.

As of February 1, tattoo-removal programmes were active at Auckland Prison, Auckland South Corrections Facility, Spring Hill Corrections Facility and Waikeria Prison.

Programmes were being developed at Hawke's Bay, Invercargill and Whanganui Prisons, and Otago Corrections Facility. Talks were under way at four other sites.

The Corrections Amendment Bill now going through Parliament would result in prisoners being punished for inking each other and themselves or for consenting to receiving a tattoo from another prisoner.