Every Thursday and Friday, Fairbanks prison opens up its beauty salon clinic to civilians willing to have their hair or nails done at bargain rates. About a month ago, it started offering salon services to senior ladies, 65 and older at no charge.
Fairbanks prison has officially offered the cosmetology course for three years, although it was taught for about a year before the opening ceremony in July 2006. Since the course has been offered, 26 female inmates have participated in the classes. Not all women were able to complete the full course because many were released before it was done. Of the 26 women who have participated in the course, 15 were Caymanian.
But the Caymanians who have taken the course and subsequently been released from prison have not pursued jobs in the industry, says the prison cosmetology instructor Yvrose Barton, who has been a cosmetologist for 27 years. Most non-Caymanians who have taken the course are returned to their home country when they are released.
“I think it is because of the low salary,” said Barton. “The average pay can be $250 to $300 a week. Some people get $150 a week plus commission. It’s hard to make a living like that.”
Caymanian inmate Sheena Minzett who is two months into the course said she really likes the work, but she would not be looking for a job in a salon when she gets out because of the low pay. But she plans do it as a hobby.
“Children like their hair braided up and I love children so anything to make them happy,” said Minzett.
As of July, there were 378 work permits for cosmetologists and hairdressers. So even if the average pay is low for many beauticians, this profession provides opportunities to start a new career for Caymanian women, said Barton.
One alternative for Caymanians completing their course is to look at starting a small salon in their homes and growing their client base from there, she added.
The course takes about six months for basic cosmetology skills, which includes hair styling, weaving, relaxing, facials, manicures and pedicures. If inmates have sufficient time left, Barton also teaches these skills at an advanced level.
There are plans to add a correspondence course to the programme through Stonebridge Associated Colleges, which specialises in distance learning. This allows the women taking the course to get a certificate and increase their job prospects, said Barton.
Barton is also looking for salons that will offer internships to inmates who complete the programme to increase the chances of women going into the profession when they get out.
There is a huge benefit to opening the salon clinic to the public, said Barton. The prison salon clinic gives the cosmetology students a chance to practice their beautician and communication skills under Barton’s supervision.
One inmate says she loves it, because it allows her to still be productive.
“Our clients don’t treat us like prisoners,” said the inmate. “They are not scared of us and they talk to us.”
The prison salon clinic services include hair colour, hair relaxing, weaving, facials, manicures and pedicures. A sampling of the salon’s rates is $10 for a manicure, $18 for hair colour and $40 for a full weave.
To go to Fairbanks salon, clinic, a woman will need to call Fairbanks prison to provide their name and date of birth for a security check. Once approved, the woman can call the prison ahead of time or send an email to: [email protected]