I like to do my hair. Going to the salon for a $200 cut and color plus some products I absolutely need so I can replicate the look at home is awesome.
But that all changed when I went to prison. Well, my love for going to the salon hasn’t changed, but my ability to do so has. Before long, my hair color became dull and lifeless looking, and the gray hair started to take over. It’s frustrating to see myself like that, but there’s nothing I can do about it. My hair is in a ponytail 95% of the time because I really have nothing left to do with it.
Which, then, leads to the main question of this blog post: Can you get a haircut in prison?
In this blog post, I will cover the following topics:
- Prison Inmate Grooming Rules and Standards
- Does the prison have a barber shop?
- Do prisons offer cosmetology vocational training?
Prison Inmate Grooming Rules and Standards
Believe it or not, prisons have very strict rules when it comes to personal grooming. You have to keep yourself clean and well-dressed, because if you don’t, you could be violated, or worse, face the wrath of your fellow inmates.
When it comes to hair, the Federal Bureau of Prisons doesn’t actually have a hair length policy. The rule states:
“If the prisoner keeps his hair neat and clean, the warden may not limit the length of the hair. The prisoner may shave his head or grow his hair long.”
However, due to contraband issues, states are starting to make changes. Some prisons and detention centers have imposed regulations on hair length, believing that inmates can hide smuggled goods in their long hair. And, that means the prison must have a barber shop or salon on site. So yes, you can get a haircut in prison.
Does the prison have a barber shop?
Every prison has a barbershop or a room dedicated to haircuts. For federal prisons, the rules are:
“The warden shall provide hair care services to prisoners in compliance with applicable health and hygiene requirements. Where practicable, haircuts shall be made in a room or rooms specifically designated for the purpose. If this is not practicable, multiple Functional areas. Haircuts should be performed in areas that allow staff to observe. Equipment must be securely stored when not in use. A current inventory of hairdressing equipment should be maintained.”
When I was in prison, you had to submit an application to book a hairdresser appointment, and you could book one every 90 days. Women who work in barbershops provide basic services like haircuts, colors and styles, and they are all licensed. How is this possible you ask? You’d be surprised how many teenage inmates hold a cosmetology license while locked up.
Haircuts or styling are free, but you have to pay for hair coloring. At the WERDCC where I was imprisoned, the procedure was to buy a “color ticket” in the cafeteria for $6.50. One color swatch is enough for short hair, and two for long hair.
After purchasing a color chip, you can schedule an appointment. Going according to plan usually takes at least a few weeks, sometimes even longer.
In addition to haircuts for prisoners, the barber shop also provides prison guards with free haircuts, shaves, boots and other services.
Some higher-security prisons do not allow inmates to go to barbershops, but they send someone into dormitories with scissors and clippers and offer haircuts in break rooms or multipurpose rooms for officers to watch over. Keep track of what’s going on.
Do prisons offer cosmetology vocational training?
Many women’s prisons offer vocational training, one of which is cosmetology. Due to licensing requirements, there are some rules about who can take cosmetology classes. You must be within two to three years of your release date, and the course will last about 18-24 months (some male prisons also have barbershop vocational training).
After completing the program, you will take the state examination for licensure. The prison will arrange for a day to transport all those who have completed their most recent class to the testing site, where they will take the test together.
The reason you have to be within two to three years of the release date is because you will get your license at the end of the course. The aim is for prisoners to have a current license, which they can use to find work after release. It doesn’t make any sense for a person to take classes, get a license, and spend another ten years in jail.
In the weeks or months between being licensed and being released, an inmate can find a job at a barber shop if there is a vacancy.
The great thing about having beauty schools within prison walls is that they also serve prisoners. If you don’t want to wait weeks to get into the barber shop, you can make an appointment at “Cosmo,” which is basically a prison salon.
In addition to haircuts, coloring and styling services, Cosmo also offers chemical services like manicures, pedicures, perms or relaxers, as well as scalp treatments. However, not everyone can book these extra services.
The extras are only available if you’ve been breaking the rules for at least six months, so you can’t get in trouble if you want to get your hair back or your nails done.
I should also mention the barbershop and salon regulations. Since workers are handling the scissors, keeping track of inventory is critical. Barbershops and hair salons have staff who watch over every move. At the end of the day, all tools are inventoried and locked away, including brushes, combs and clips.
The tools and products they use are also not up to standard, so it’s not like walking into a free world salon. However, I feel as good, if not better, after a haircut and coloring than I do in the free world. It’s a great treat and it makes you feel like a normal person within minutes.
Are you surprised that there are barber shops and salons in prison? Let us know in the comments below.