Sep
09
Beauty Salon Behind Bars


ELSA LUMSDEN: I never look at prisoners in
a negative way. If they have the support and if they have the tutoring and the mentoring,
they can be great people. BARBARA: I had no job. I was a young mother,
a teenage mother and I was a single mother after I left an abusive relationship, which
led me to crime because I had no education. I had no skills. I was a lookout outside of
a convenience store. The people that I was with went inside and shot and killed an innocent man. BARBARA: I am here in prison under the Felony
Murder Rule. I have been here for this is going on 20 years. SHEILA: I have committed my crime, I was convicted
of first-degree burglary. I have been in CCWF for 9 years now. SHEILA: When I first got to prison, having
a 10-year sentence to deal, I couldn’t even see the light. I couldn’t see the end
of the road. So I chose to do bad in here. I was rough, I was getting in trouble and
I messed up a lot. SHEILA: Before I was incarcerated, I didn’t
have too much of a job, I was young and I just, kind of, bounced around a little bit. SUSAN: I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do
when I came to prison. Very, very feminine and I am very, very into serving others as in helping people make them feel better about themselves. ELSA LUMSDEN: Okay! So, so we are going to
establish a guideline here and then if we have any, any little mistakes, we are going
to go through and check the hair to make sure, WOMAN: They are all even. ELSA LUMSDEN: That it’s even. ELSA LUMSDEN: When I was going to college,
my professor worked at a prison and he would give us different experiences of what the
prison life was all about and I decided there and then that I wanted to work in a prison. ELSA LUMSDEN: I have been teaching for approximately
13 years. ELSA LUMSDEN: Oh, that’s the part that she
wants to. ELSA LUMSDEN: You don’t want it either,
you could get cut. And once you get cut, right here, it’s really hard for you to stop. SHEILA: Elsa Lumsden, she is an amazing woman.
She comes in here, she works with us and she gives us hope. SHEILA: Being in cosmo and seeing that I can
get licensed, it gave me a drive to change. ELSA LUMSDEN: We have a curriculum for approximately 1600 hours and it consist of: hair cutting, permanent waving, manicures, pedicures, makeup.
At the culmination of the 1600 hours, these inmates are eligible to take the state board
exam and after they are able to receive a licence. BARBARA: Coming to prison with such a long
sentence took away any hope that anybody could have. But when we get here after being broken,
after coming from abuse, coming from the street life and knowing that we can actually accomplish
something such as cosmetology to give us a career, like it is very inspiring. It made
me believe in myself. It gave me hope. ELSA LUMSDEN: Dealing with inmates is a little
different because we know that they are inmates and we don’t second-guess; inmate is an inmate.
So we are very careful of scissors, of tweezers, any sharp-edged implement. We have to be careful.
I have never had an incident of such because they understand. Once they come into class,
they know what is expected of them. We don’t want violence in the class. SHEILA: I would have never thought to do beauty
before, never. They, they make fun of me because, you know, I don’t have long hair. So it’s
not, I am not the ideal cosmetologist. So they are just like, ‘Wow! You do hair.’
And they joke about it. But, I mean, it’s what I love. So, I am okay with it. SHEILA: Being incarcerated I think it adds
a little more stress on your everyday work life. So it’s really about coming here and
leaving that aside. ELSA LUMSDEN: Some people believe that, ‘Oh,
you are no good that’s why you went to prison.’ But sometimes it’s just that they are hanging
with the wrong crowd at the wrong time and they get caught. But you can see the changes
in many of them once they are in the class. KALENA: I am here to be in cosmetology to
set-up a career for myself and have a better future. It’s something that I have always
wanted to do. So I am taking advantage of it while I am here to better my life and have
it as a career option when I get out. KALENA: Today I just wanted to make her feel
good about herself and give her the best that I could and make her feel good about herself. SUSAN: My treatment today was absolutely magnificent.
I have never really felt special and, so, that’s been my like, I guess a dream. Like,
I would want someone to take care of me and pamper me and make me feel like that I am deserving,
you know like I am worthy. I feel like I am inside but a lot of time, people don’t treat
me that way. ELSA LUMSDEN: When they do good work and when
they have, they demonstrate that they have, they are working hard, I give them a compliment.
I compliment them and let them understand, ‘You are doing very well, you are doing
exceptional and if you keep on being exceptional you are going places. You will make it very
well in the world when you get out of here.’ I would say, I would say at least 90% of
all my students that I have had , stay in contact with me. About 2 or 3 months ago, I
heard from an inmate who passed the state board exam and she told me that she is working
in the salon. Another one said that she already owns her own business. ELSA LUMSDEN: I am very proud of them. To
see where I can help turn criminals into someone who is making something good for themselves,
make life better for themselves and be an influence on others as well. WOMAN: I love it. BEAUTICIAN: Very beautiful. SHEILA: I went from not knowing how to even
do a ponytail to winning number 1 in the hairstyling contest and then I realised that I can do
something. So from not knowing how to do something, it made me realise that I could do whatever
I put my mind to now. So, I have dreams to do many things and just succeed in the world.
I am not left with a thought of, ‘Oh, this is all I am,’ or ‘I have to choose this
lifestyle because that’s all I know.’ You know I can pursue something better for
myself and I believe that cosmetology was the stepping stone that led me to that. BARBARA: These life skills have changed me.
I came from nothing to something. I had zero self-esteem, I had zero confidence, I didn’t
believe in myself. These life skills have given me hope. I am confident in what I do.
I have hope. I have faith that I will go home regardless of having a life without parole
sentence. I am going home. I am going to take this to the streets. ELSA LUMSDEN: Their willingness to change
your life and do better. If they have the support and if they have the tutoring and
the mentoring, they can be great people because I have seen it with my students.