Beauty Behind Bars

Cosmetology programs have become wildly popular in quite an unexpected place – women’s correctional facilities. In some facilities across the country, women can earn certified cosmetology degrees through prison-run programs, and while it seems like a crazy idea to have a beauty school in prison, it really is doing a lot of good.

The return rate for not only women, but also men, who have been convicted of a crime is very high.

According to the Sentencing Project, “Though many more men are in prison than women, the rate of growth for female imprisonment has outpaced men by more than 50 percent between 1980 and 2014. There are 1.2 million women under the supervision of the criminal justice system.”

Working toward getting this degree allows for inmates to participate in something during the day, all while helping them learn a new skill set. The motivation this program gives incarcerated women to go out into the real world with these skills after serving their sentences, is something that will help them to build a career that they will genuinely enjoy – lowering the return rate.

After inmates get out of prison, as you can imagine, it is very difficult to find a job with a prison sentence on your record. In women’s correctional facilities around the country, inmates have turned to cosmetology to establish experience in the field before their sentence is up. In these programs women learn all the basics of cosmetology: how to do hair, makeup and other beauty services, like eyelash extensions. Since these programs are such a great opportunity for women in prison, the program is very selective. They must have a long-standing and good track record and the drive to dedicate themselves to learning all of these new skills.

At Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Oregon, their cosmetology program functions as a salon for other women serving time in the facility. The women who are earning their degrees in the program practice all of the skills that they’re learning on other women in the facility who want those specific beauty treatments.

With the matching uniforms supplied to inmates in prisons, whether they may be orange jumpsuits or jeans and a basic t-shirt, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. Along with giving the women at these facilities something to become passionate about, these programs allow them to still maintain their own sense of style. They provide these women with the ability to change up their hair or makeup however they want, so they are still able to stay true to their individual identities. The motivation this program gives incarcerated women to eventually go out into the real world with a purpose and a skill that can help them get a job is something that will help women stay out of prison and to pursue a job they enjoy.


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