From scalp massages to toenail filing and eyelash extensions, a select number of inmates at Valley State Prison in Chowchilla, California get to learn the ins and outs of cosmetology while working towards their licenses.
Cosmetology is one of the nine vocational programs Valley State offers its inmates. Cosmetology is also one of the most popular programs in the prison and even has a waitlist to get into the program. The program includes classroom and on-hands work in the prison salon.
Valley State’s program is accredited by the California's Board of Barbering and Cosmetology. It takes about two-and-a-half years to complete the program and once inmates are a year or less away from their release date they are allowed to take the exam. So far, the prison has a 100 percent passing rate. Five male inmates have received their cosmetology license since 2013.
Carmen Shehorn works at the prison as the cosmetology professor but also acts as a mother-figure to many of her students. She said her proudest moment is at the end of the prisoner's time in her program, when they pass the exam and leave with their cosmetology license. One of her students, Juan Brizuela was released last November after serving 22 years for second-degree murder after being convicted at just 15 years old. He now works as a celebrity salon in Pasadena as an assistant.
"It was much more than just learning a trade," he told Today Style. "It was learning about yourself and life and how humans really interact on a positive level with one another."
These inmates prove that no matter where your life goes, you can turn it around to create a better future for you and your family.