It is universally known that hair is a close tie to how a person individualizes. Haircuts, while a significant part of grooming, are also crucial to self-esteem.
In 2019, around 70% of people actively sought haircuts at least twice a month. But what about in prison? Inmates have already lost their freedom. Do they also have to lose how they see themselves?
The answer is a hard no. You may be surprised by the answer, but it’s more complex than most people think.
Rules for Haircuts in Prison
In the U.S., correctional facilities and authorities are required by law to provide proper hygiene and grooming. Moreover, they are required to provide inmates with a haircut at least once a month. However, there are stipulations every prisoner must adhere to.
- In some states, male inmates are not allowed to have long hair unless an onsite barber shop is available.
- Whatever the hairstyle, prisoners are required to be “neat and well groomed.”
- In the case of women, hair must be “searchable.” A metal detector may be used to check for contraband. Also, she may be asked to bend her head down and thoroughly comb through her hair with her fingers.
- Certain restrictions may apply to unique hairstyles at the discretion of the warden.
- Braids and dreadlocks may not exceed half an inch.
- Symbols, initials, multiple parts or hair that is disproportionately long on one side are normally prohibited in most facilities.
- If an inmate has strongly held religious beliefs, exceptions can be made.
- If the warden finds the haircut to drastically change the appearance of an inmate, a new photo will be taken.
Regardless of any rules or conditions, it is the law. The facility is required to provide all inmates with haircuts and grooming materials free of charge.
How Correctional Facilities Manage Haircuts for Inmates
Depending on the correctional facility, there are a number of ways haircuts are provided. The standard, however, is that a barber will be contracted to come to said facility. On average, they will visit a unit once a month. In high security situations, an open room with a guard will be utilized for safety reasons. In regular situations, inmates are allowed to put in requests for haircuts. The requests may take up to 90 days to fulfill.
Prisoners are brought one at a time to receive their haircut. For safety reasons, inmates remain shackled at the hands and ankles. There is a standard cut, but most barbers will listen to a prisoner’s request. All tools used during the process are required to be clean and hygienic.
If the proper program is in place, there is the opportunity to have hair colored. Standard haircuts are provided without cost. In some cases of hairstyles, an inmate may be required to a pay a couple of dollars. This is usually the case regarding hair dye. Licensed professionals are the only ones allowed to administer haircuts as well as using chemicals.
Opportunity for Felons to Learn a Trade Skill
It is well known that being incarcerated still allows many prisoners with ample resources and opportunities. Many inmates will reeducate themselves, learn a new language, or even acquire a new trade. Most correctional facilities provide programs for these purposes. Cosmetology is one of them.
During the class portion of this program, inmates will be grouped together to have their hair cut. They remain in their orange jumpsuits and are still shackled. However, the feeling of being in a barber shop setting remains the same. For many prisoners, it’s a chance to regain a feeling of what it is like to back on the outside. They discuss the news, their families and sports.
These programs are readily available in areas where there is a shortage of barbers. As stated above, prisons are required by law to provide haircuts to every prisoner. By utilizing this program, many facilities are able to provide an opportunity to learn a new trade and even provide a job upon release.
The best thing about this chance, is that grooming and hair maintenance is a constant. In the last ten years, the rate of haircuts has risen by 20%. Haircuts are a necessity for a lot of things, but most of all, employment. Many companies require their employees to appear a certain way to look professional. As the rate of jobs increase in the country, so do the need for barbers and hairstylists.
Almost anyone can apply for such programs, however inmates convicted of violent crimes are considered ineligible. A prisoner must also be incarcerated for a certain amount of time. If enrolled in the program, students learn a number of skills used to cut hair for both men and women. In most cases, students are provided their own tools to cut hair. Students are not allowed to have their tools outside of the classroom. Upon release, students are given their tools to take with them.
The program has been found very affective in many states. One result being that many in the program do not end up back behind bars. The programs teach not only haircutting skills, but life skills as well. Student learn responsibility, accountability and punctuality. They also gain a new lease on life as well as self-worth.
More than a Haircut
Many of those individuals placed in higher security prisons or those placed in “the hole” rely on these haircuts. For some of them, it’s the only time they get a chance to see their own reflection. Usually, what stares back at them in the mirror can be unsettling. However, each time they step out of the chair, they feel like they have regained a part of themselves.
For inmates with the opportunity and willingness to learn, it’s a chance for a future. An opportunity to better themselves. A way to give back to themselves and to others. While it is a law, it is also a way of life. It’s the turning point for many prisoners. It can be the last thing keeping them together.
Most people assume inmates either don’t receive haircuts or just have it shaved. As shown here, it is the mandatory for every inmate to be allowed a trim. More so, they have the right to a choice in style.
With the trade program in place many inmates are finding a new future once released. A record number of prisoners who go through the program remain outside of jails.
It’s not just a haircut. It’s individuality. It’s salvation. It’s hope.