DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — Illegal tattooing behind bars continues to be a problem for state prison officials, despite efforts to curb it, according to disciplinary statistics reported by a newspaper Monday.
During a three-year period, state prison officials filed nearly 10,000 code-of-conduct violations against inmates for possessing items used to tattoo other inmates, according to the Dayton Daily News (http://bit.ly/1eb1Tlt).
Officials say getting inked in unsterilized environments — such as prison cells — can lead to the spread of bacteria and infectious diseases, including hepatitis C and penicillin-resistant staph infections.
"They are an ongoing health and safety concern that we don't take for granted or turn a blind eye to," said Ed Voorhies, managing director of operations with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. "We do searches of our prisons all the time."
Inmates can piece together battery-powered tattoo guns using simple items, including parts of portable CD or tape players, the motor of an electrical fan, a needle and the sleeve of a pen. They get ink from pens or make it by burning certain materials and using the soot.
Between 2011 and 2013, Ohio prison officials filed 9,817 charges against inmates for violating inmate rules of conduct by possessing devices or materials used for tattooing, according to the prison system data. During the same period, officials also filed 7,950 charges against inmates for self-mutilation, most of which stem from tattooing.
Inmates caught breaking tattooing rules face punishments ranging from extra work duties, restricted access to the commissary or getting placed in segregation.
Ohio inmates can be criminally charged for tattooing activities if they are infected with HIV or hepatitis, officials said, though such charges are rare. Voorhies said Ohio's system had no violations of that type in at least three years, possibly longer.