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Can You Have Nails In Prison?

Can You Have Nails In Prison?

I’m not a sissy girl. I was always a bit of a tomboy growing up, as I loved (and still love) traditional “boy” things like sports, science fiction, and comic book inspired TV shows and movies. On the other hand, I don’t know anything about traditional girl stuff like dolls, makeup, and fashion.

However, I still have some “girly” qualities, like a passion for boy bands and ’90s teen melodrama, a penchant for rom coms, and a strong appreciation for the wonderful experiences of manicures and pedicures.

Not being able to wear makeup bothered me for a while when I was in prison, but I eventually got over it. Now, I rarely wear it outside. However, getting my nails done was a big question mark for me when I entered the Women’s East Hospitality Clinic.

So, let’s get into today’s blog post: Can you hammer a nail in jail?

In this blog post, I will cover the following topics:

  • What is the grooming style of prison inmates?
  • Are inmates allowed to use acrylic manicures and salon services?

What is the grooming style of prison inmates?

You may be surprised to learn that prisoners are expected to maintain normal grooming while incarcerated. You should bathe regularly, use hygiene products at all times, comb and groom your hair, keep your fingernails and toenails trimmed below the fingertips, shave, brush your teeth, and use deodorant.

In fact, grooming is so important that if you can’t afford hygiene supplies from the canteen, the prison will issue you with a crude kit that includes soap, deodorant, toothbrush and paste, and shampoo.

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons,

“The expected outcomes of the grooming rules are: a. Prisoners will maintain appropriate standards of grooming, bathing, and dress. b. Prisoners will be provided with items necessary to maintain personal hygiene. C. Bearded prisoners will be A beard cover must be worn where a work-related injury has occurred.”

If you don’t groom yourself and practice proper hygiene, you could be subject to a behavioral offense and forced to shower, have your nails trimmed, and get your hair cut. This is the punishment of officials and administration, but you will have to endure worse punishment from other prisoners.

Like it or not, prison is home. For long-term inmates, prison really is their world. Just like you wouldn’t want someone walking through your house with muddy shoes, or living in your house without taking a shower, inmates feel the same way about being properly groomed.

They don’t want smelly, nasty people in their homes, whether in their cells or common areas. If you don’t take care of yourself — bathe, clip your nails, shave (or trim) your beard, keep your hair neat and tidy, use deodorant — the other inmates will punish you, and possibly become violent.

Whether you’re an inmate in a state or federal prison, you need to groom yourself. The only exception is prisoners in solitary confinement or some other sort of isolation. Their access to showers and hygiene products is more limited.

Are inmates allowed to use acrylic manicures and salon services?

Nails are an interesting topic in prisons. Any nail longer than the tip of a finger is considered a weapon and is not allowed under the correctional institution’s rules. That’s why you need to trim your nails. So no, you can’t really “have nails” in jail.

In the place where I was detained, nail clippers were available in the cafeteria, but there was no nail file inside. Clippers must remain in their original form at all times, which means that if they are altered in any way, they will be considered weapons. I always had to worry about this because I would pull the pins out of the scissors and use them to cut cigarette filters in half, so my 100 bags became 200 bags of filters for cigarettes.

Back to the subject at hand. If you can’t afford nail clippers, you can ask your “cellie” to lend you one. If you’re really having a hard time finding something to work with, you can go on sick days and have the nurse cut your nails for you.

In addition to fingernails, your toenails must also be trimmed. So the nail clippers they sell in the canteen are the larger ones made for toenails.

As for acrylic nails, there are absolutely no inmates. If you bring acrylics to jail, some prisons will let you pry or cut as much of them off as you can get in.

However, some prisoners do have access to salon services. At WERDCC, one of the career programs inmates can participate in is cosmetology, so they basically run their own salon on the prison grounds.

In addition to haircuts, you can also get styles, colors, scalp massages, manicures and pedicures. In order to get anything other than a haircut, you must be in good behavior and have been free of infractions for at least six months. So if you opt for a once or twice a year manicure, you can.

It’s not common and I can’t imagine it’s something that’s offered in a men’s prison. However, there is always the possibility that one or two facilities do offer some kind of salon for male inmates.

For women’s prisons without beauty schools, most have some kind of barber shop. We actually have both because barbershops employ inmates who already have grooming licenses. And, in vocational schools, services are provided by students.

Typically, most inmates get hair coloring rather than manicures. Prisoners are not allowed to wear nail polish, and the manicure tools used by the students are also very old.

Don’t go to jail if you have amazing nails. Because they will disappear quickly.

Should Prisoners Get Salon Services? Let us know in the comments below.


Federal Bureau of Prisons: Grooming