The media world has been rocked a couple of times in the last year with revelations that noted journalists routinely fabricated feature stories out of thin air. And I can appreciate that some readers might suspect the following is similarly a product of someone?s imagination. I assure you though; I?m not making this up and it?s not a belated April Fool?s joke.

The Corrections Service of Canada, the agency responsible for housing and supervising all inmates sentenced to two years or more, has just announced that tattoo parlours will be opening up in six institutions this year.

That?s correct ? tattoo parlours in federal penitentiaries. Amid revelations that up to a quarter of federal inmates have tested positive for hepatitis C, the director general for Corrections Canada announced the forthcoming tattoo parlours at a conference in Vancouver last week. Inmates will run the parlours and if the pilot project is successful, tattoo parlours could soon be as common as tennis courts and brew parties in prisons across the country.

Without having any idea how many inmates contracted hepatitis C through crude, jailhouse tattoo procedures, Dr. Francoise Bouchard is convinced the parlours will reduce the numbers. Try taking that business plan to your banker.

As our new Prime Minister is so fond of saying, ?let me be perfectly clear on this issue.? The tattoo announcement is just the beginning. Prison needle exchanges are just around the corner and God knows what else lies on the horizon. Even though Corrections Canada proclaims a zero tolerance policy toward illegal drug use in its institutions, it is already common practice to provide inmates with bleach to sterilize their rigs.

And while combating the spread of infectious disease among the inmate population is a noble objective, there is something disturbing about the eagerness of Corrections Canada to throw in the towel. It?s one thing to supply closed circuit pornography to inmates and open Mr. Sub and other fast food franchises behind prison walls, but condoning tattoo access is another issue altogether. Tattoos are typically used inside to denote gang affiliation and the practice has always been considered a serious security issue.

One of the often-stated goals of Corrections Canada is to provide inmates, I mean clients, with an environment that approximates the outside society. It?s believed that this is part of the strategy that will enhance reintegration. But it?s one bizarre leap in logic to conclude that this means prisons must provide XXX movies, clean needles for shooting illegal drugs and now, tattoo parlours. What?s next? Massage parlours where the staff doesn?t give massages? How about a couple of strip joints? Maybe a liquor store on each range would normalize the environment.

No wonder prison has lost any deterrent value. It has all the attractions of the seedy part of any downtown and you don?t even need bus fare to get there.