By Noel Scott
Valley State Prison in Chowchilla is the only prison in California that offers a cosmetology program for men.
It has a 100 percent graduation rate, which is one of the highest rates of any prison education programs in the nation, according to Wash, Rinse, Redeem: A look inside a beauty school — in a men’s prison, by Stacey Leasca on the good.com.
“It’s like a break from prison because of the way free staff interacts with us, and we interact with each other,” said Daniel Bezemer, the program’s first male graduate.
The Last Mile at San Quentin also provides training in a useful vocation. The class teaches how to write computer codes without having the use of the internet.
“Inmates are learning all the languages that actually get you hired,” said Scott Budnick, a movie producer and reform advocate who founded the Anti-Recidivism Coalition.
“Inmates are learning all the languages that actually get you hired”
“I think we shouldn’t try to cram anyone into a certain box … there is a huge need for vocational programming for those that don’t have a high school diploma or GED, don’t want to go to college, and prefer working with their hands,” said Budnick.
According to a 2013 report by the Rand Corporation, inmates who get a college education in prison reduce their chances of re-offending by 43 percent. The study shows that money spent on prison education substantially reduces future incarceration costs for taxpayers.
Finding employment is often difficult when on parole but these two programs offer their graduates unique opportunities for potential entrepreneurs.
Hairstylists, for example, can rent chairs in beauty salons and work for themselves. Last Mile graduates, according to Budnick, are not only positioned for an $80,000–a-year job once released, they can create “phone apps” of their own and market them.
These programs reflect a sea change in the CDCR’s overall mindset toward rehabilitation through education. This willingness to adopt new programs that prepare inmates for life outside of prison exemplifies the rehabilitation renaissance that is taking hold throughout our nation.