Prison inmates, are some of the most maladjusted people in our society today. The debate on these incarcerated criminals, fluctuates from harsh punishments for the crimes they committed to rehabilitation so that they may reintegrate back into society. Today it seems like our society is looking for more punitive actions towards individuals that decide to break the law. However, in Oregon, “citizens passed two measures which amended their constitution … which made participation in a correctional education program mandatory. Becoming section 41 of article I in the Oregon constitution,” (Ellis vii) in response to the United States Congress abolishing Pell Grants to inmates in 1994.
As a response to this new change in the Oregon Constitution, the Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) had to make some change in their facilities. Of the changes made the ODOC implement work-based educational programs into some of their correctional facilities. One specific program that has been implemented is the Hair Design program at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility (CCCF). This program provides skills to the inmates on many cosmetology practices such as how to do people’s hair, nails, makeup and other beauty related skills. This program works alongside with Portland Community College, “who works in partnership with the Department of Education and the Oregon Health Authority-State Board of Cosmetology,” (Department of Corrections website). There are certain criteria that the inmates have to have in order to participate in Hair Design. According to the Oregon Department of Correction’s website the admission requirements include having a, “high school diploma or GED, state mandated reading & math levels, minimum 1-year clear conduct, ideally 5-6 years remaining on sentence, and a 2-year commitment to program.”
The ODOC describes their program more in detail on their website. They state that the main goal of this program is to provide inmates with skills that they can utilize upon their release to gain employment. They can receive state certifications and licenses if they complete the mandated 2,300 hours and four State Board proctored exams. If they get a score of 75% or higher they will receive this license and leave with job ready skills. They practice these skills on each other and mannequins. They are not allowed to dye each other’s hair in order for prisoner identification purposes.
Having this program gives these inmates a purpose again and something to work for. Research done by Portland Community College supports this idea by showing that adults in custody that participate in correctional education programs have a lower rate of recidivism and are more likely to obtain employment upon release (Chester). Having this program makes them feel more like people rather than the inmate number that they are given.
“The women at CCCF attest that we can even out the playing field for them by providing them with a drug free environment, consistent support, and quality education. Given this opportunity it is likely that they would choose to pursue their education and consider a career, not just a job that would provide continual intrinsic gratification as well the possibility of improving their economic situation once they were back ‘on the outside.’” (Ellis 9).