Getting a tattoo in prison can put you at risk of hepatitis C or other blood-borne viruses because equipment cannot easily be sterilised. In this blog, Grant* shares more about how getting a prison tattoo led to him contracting hepatitis C and how he now works with The Hepatitis C Trust to warn others of the risk.
I’m 48 and from West Yorkshire and am currently serving a prison sentence for a crime I committed some years ago now.
Growing up I would say that I had a fairly privileged upbringing. I was brought up on my family’s farm where my dad worked really hard to give me and my family a great life.
As a young lad, I really enjoyed sport and I excelled at playing rugby league to the point that professional teams were taking notice and were interested in possibly signing me up when I came of age.
A couple of years later I started going out raving with my friends and started messing about taking party drugs. At first, this all started out as a bit of fun but eventually turned into me taking harder drugs to come down from the party drugs.
At this point one of the rugby clubs that were interested in signing me approached me and asked me to sign up for the club. I was chuffed with this and my parents were also really happy.
As part of signing up there were health checks which included drug screening. The test results came back as positive for several substances and my chances of playing rugby league professionally went out of the window.
My drug use got a lot worse after this and for a few more years I continued to use drugs and put myself at risk of catching hepatitis C many times, in many different ways. I then committed the crime that got me put in prison for the sentence I am still serving today.
Outside of prison I had put myself at risk so many times and I had never caught the virus. I hadn’t realised that getting a tattoo in prison would put me at risk.
I was tested for hepatitis C on entry to the prison and was negative, I couldn’t believe it really as I knew how many risks I had taken. I felt like I’d dodged a bullet.
Two years into my sentence I decided to have a tattoo done from a lad on the wing. It’s what a lot of people do in prison to pass the time so I didn’t think anything of it.
I moved prisons and was tested again for hepatitis C. I was quite confident I’d be fine as I hadn’t injected or used any drugs. However, this time it came back positive.
I was in total disbelief. Outside of prison I had put myself at risk so many times and I had never caught the virus. I hadn’t realised that getting a tattoo in prison would put me at risk. I now know differently.
Luckily, hepatitis C is now really easy to cure. I got onto treatment straight away and I‘m now virus free.
I’ve now trained as volunteer hepatitis C peer mentor in the prison I am in and I share my life story with others. I hope I can raise awareness and stop someone from making the same mistake I made.
I feel that meeting the team from The Hepatitis C Trust has given me an insight into what may be possible for me on release and a glimmer of hope that there is a better life waiting for me when I get out.
*This story was written under an alias. Names have been changed on the request of the author.