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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Barney Rubble -- July 1, 2009

Other than grade school and GED classes, the only program Stateville has is a barber shop school. Prisoners can sign up on a waiting list to be taught how to cut hair, and gain a certificate after completing the program. The program typically takes almost three years to finish due to numerous lockdowns, days when school is not run, or the teachers' days off. Stateville has about 1,500 general population inmates and many have signed up for this program. However, due to the number and slow turnover rate, they usually wait over five years to begin.

My cellie completed this program, and has had his certificate since 2004, however, he continues to attend classes as a worker. A few students are retained by the teacher to assist with teaching how to cut more difficult types of hair. The barber shop school is not only a school, but the prison's barber shop. All general population prisoners get their hair cut at the school by students, or with the help of certified barber shop workers. Consequently, not too many stylish haircuts are to be seen here. Bald heads and very short, one length hair cuts are most common. A few black prisoners wear corn rows, or go to the barber shop mostly just to have their hair lined.

The barber shop is supposed to be run once a week in the cell houses. One gallery at a time is usually taken, but sometimes only half a gallery is able to get hair cuts. There are five galleries per cell house, and if we were never to go on lockdown and if the barber shop was run every week, prisoners would have an opportunity to get a hair cut once every month and a half. However, this is rarely the case, and I have yet to have an opportunity to go this year. Instead, I've been trimming my own hair with my beard trimmer. Over the years, I have gained a little skill, but I thought this week I would ask my cellie to cut it.

I asked him to keep most of the length, and just taper and even out my hair. I described what I wanted, and even pointed out a couple of people on TV that had similar hair cuts. My cellie told me it would be no problem. He has been cutting hair for many years, and has had his certificate from the barber shop for five. Thus, I felt confident that he would do a good job, even though he had no scizzors and had to use a cheap pair of beard trimmers instead.

After my cellie was done, I had him pass me a prison mirror, which is just a small clear plastic rectangle with reflective backing. To my surprise, my cellie had given me a haircut similar to the Flintstone's Barney Rubble character. It was very short on the sides and back, but the top was over three inches long. If I had spiked it, it could have been a Mohawk. I said, "What did you do? I wanted my hair tapered. I didn't want a Barney Rubble!" He defended his work, but told me that if I wanted he could take the top down some more. I told him to get to work.

Even after my cellie went over my hair again, I was still not happy. There was a sharp difference in the length of my hair from the top to the sides and back. I had enough of his barber skills, and began to clean up the cell. Hair was everywhere, despite the fact that I had worn a sheet about myself. The next morning, I took out my trimmers and began cutting my hair. My cellie told me that I was messing up his work, and taking a hatchet to my hair. But I needed to taper my hair so it blended together. Now, instead of the "Barney Rubble," I have what is called a "fade." It is much shorter than I wanted, but you rarely ever get what you want in prison.