Mississippi's Cosmetology Program: Turning Followers into Leaders

Article excerpt

The philosophy of the Mississippi Department of Corrections is that each inmate can achieve goals while incarcerated and, upon release, will be a contributing member of society. "We want to show them they have choices ... we are trying to unlock the possibilities in every inmate," Corrections Commissioner Christopher B. Epps said.

Offenders who follow institutional rules and who apply themselves have a variety of opportunities while incarcerated to improve their chances of success upon release. The Central Mississippi Correctional Facility (CMCF) Cosmetology Program is a prime example of positive lifestyle choices that are benefiting the offenders and society.

CMCF was established in 1986 and constructed on 171 acres in Rankin County. The facility includes 13 housing units with a capacity of 3,293 beds for male and female inmates. Of the three state prisons, CMCF is the only facility to house female state inmates. It houses females classified to all custody levels, including death row and minimum, medium and maximum security. There are approximately 545 employees and 3,252 inmates at CMCF, about 1,405 of which are female inmates.

With women making up an increasing proportion of U.S. inmates--reaching 12.7 percent of the population in 2005, compared with 10.2 percent in 1995, (1) as well as accounting for nearly one in four arrests--incarceration programs that are tailored for women are becoming increasingly imperative. Much of the increase in incarceration can be attributed to mandatory minimums and specific sentencing guidelines for drug offenses.


As the trend of rising incarceration for women shows no sign of dwindling, it is important to establish more programs for female inmates. Corrections professionals understand that providing opportunities for inmates to better themselves has a direct correlation to lowering the recidivism rate. Marketable skills and a sense of accomplishment can help many offenders improve their once hollow self-esteem.

Certainly, education programs can increase the employability of offenders and improve their chances of securing employment in the community upon their release from prison. Educational programs in correctional settings have proved to have positive societal implications such as: fewer disciplinary problems, a reduction in criminal behavior, better post-release employment prospects, and even an end to family cycles of violence and crime dependency. Having a marketable skill upon release from prison clearly helps to prevent depression and stress, and it helps former inmates avoid going back to the old habits that initially resulted in their incarceration.


Real-World Training

The CMCF Cosmetology Program is a 1,500-hour course that takes about 18 months to complete. It involves the art and science of all phases of cosmetology. Cosmetology skills include the ability to style hair appropriate for the client, create nail art, apply makeup and effectively give advice to the client. The science of cosmetology teaches the chemical makeup of products and the effect they have on hair. A cosmetology student must learn to use chemicals such as perm solutions, hair color, bleach and hair relaxers, and must learn how to shape and style hair to complement the client's features.

Students are required to pass the Mississippi state examination to receive a license to practice cosmetology and to graduate the program. The average score for the inmate population on the state exam is 96 out of 100. Since its inception in February 1992, the CMCF Cosmetology Program has graduated 111 students.

The cosmetology field is more demanding than ever. Styles and products are changing constantly and so are many of the methods used in today's salons. To be successful in cosmetology, people must possess a good general knowledge of the industry as well as have actual clinical experience. …