U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Is Prison Tattooing a Risk Behaviour for HIV and Other Viruses? Results from a National Survey of Prisoners in England and Wales

NCJ Number
Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health Volume: 10 Issue: 1 Dated: 2000 Pages: 60-66
John Strang; Joan Heuston; Christopher Whiteley; Loraine Bacchus; Tony Maden; Michael Gossop; John Green
Date Published
7 pages
Confidential interviews with 1,009 adult male prisoners in 13 prisons in England and Wales in 1994 gathered information on the nature and extent of tattooing and the extent to which such prison tattoos might represent a route of transmission of HIV and other viruses.
The researchers randomly selected the participants through the Local Inmate Data System, with stratification by prison wing and with a sampling fraction varying between one in four and one in six. The consent rate was 72 percent. Fifty-three percent of the participants had at least 1 tattoo and that 21 percent had been tattooed while in prison. One third of those tattooed in prison had no previous tattoos. Half the prison tattoos were self-administered, using a wide variety of instruments. However, only 20 of the prison tattoos had been applied within the last year. Twenty-six of the 111 prison-tattooed men had received their tattoos at the same time as that of another inmate. Crude attempts to sterilize the improvised tattooing equipment were common. Findings indicated that the recent prevalence of tattooing was low among these inmates and suggested the potential usefulness of disseminating advice about more effective hygiene and cleaning methods. Table and 12 references (Author abstract modified)