The tattooed man in the picture was an inmate at the Maximum Security Compound of the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City. The other man holding a pen-like object was his fellow inmate, who was a known tattoo artist at the same tightly-guarded area. The object was an improvised handmade tattooing tool covered with thick layers of thread.
This picture had been used to support my story published by People’s Tonight sometime in October 2004. The news feature focused on the susceptibility of inmates to blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis B, which is transmitted from having unprotected sex, sharing drug needles, and getting a tattoo or body piercing with dirty needles and tools. I’ve personally seen the environment there and the gadget used by the tattoo artist. If the inmate client knows anything about dermatology or skin condition, he might not agree to have the tattoo mark on his back.
Some authorities interviewed for the story would not admit the incidence rate of hepa B cases (if there are), but confirmed the existence of sharing of drug needles, unprotected sex with different (women) visitors, and unhygienic use of tattooing devices.
There are other inmates who were suffering from skin disease at that time. The area was crowded and there was not enough ventilation to allow fresh air to come in. If there are groups who could provide free medical check-up to them, the skin disease will be prevented from affecting other inmates. Skin doctors can give them first aid treatment.
Sources said the tattoo artist continues to render tattoo services beyond the prison walls.