Beauty behind bars: Why makeup matters for prisoners

Zara Stone is the creator of “The Future of Science is Female: The Brilliant Minds Shaping the 21st Century.” Her new guide, “Killer Looks: The Forgotten History of Prison Plastic Surgery,” revealed by Prometheus Books, is offered now.
Final 12 months was a tough one for Joyce Pequeno, a 28-year-old inmate at Espresso Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville, Oregon. Social distancing was uncommon, she stated, and prisoners were dying. Her clemency listening to was postponed. Nonetheless, most days she dabbed on basis, swirled eyeshadow throughout her lids and outlined her eyes with kohl.

“It makes me really feel good, like an actual human being — not only a quantity,” she stated over e mail. “A budget stuff they promote makes me escape, however it’s all we have now (so I take advantage of it).”

Seven hundred miles south, Susan Ferguson, an inmate contained in the Central California Girls’s Facility, in Chowchilla, has an equally constant magnificence routine. “Getting my hair and nails taken care of is self-care,” she stated by way of a letter. “Everyone seems to be sick… it makes me really feel regular.” However pandemic-related provide chain issues have created beauty shortages at jail commissaries.

Many inmates discover consolation in cosmetics. Stripped of freedom, family and friends, make-up can assist inmate retains a way of identification and current themselves within the method they select, reasonably than as dictated by strict jail costume codes.

A cosmetology class in progress at Metro State Prison in Atlanta, where inmates practice hairdressing.

A cosmetology class in progress at Metro State Jail in Atlanta, the place inmates apply hairdressing. Credit score: Ric Feld/AP

“Girls’s pathways into the prison justice system are sometimes totally different than males’s, and their wants in jail are very totally different,” stated Jennifer Vollen-Katz, govt director of the John Howard Affiliation, a jail watchdog, over the telephone. Approximately 86% of ladies in US jails have skilled sexual violence sooner or later of their lives, and 75% report psychological well being points — histories that go hand in hand with substance abuse and coerced conduct.
Regardless of the potential psychological advantages, entry to make-up in prisons has at all times been politically fraught. Considered as frivolous or a luxurious, offenders have traditionally been thought of undeserving of such rewards. Cosmetics have been outlawed in New York prisons till 1920, Nebraska prisons till 1924, UK prisons till 1946 and French prisons till 1972, when lipstick and powder have been accepted on the premise that “denying girls using make-up might result in private neglect and psychological results,” an American newspaper reported French authorities saying.

In 1998, Virginia’s division of corrections tried to ban make-up, citing its contraband potential. Patricia L. Huffman, warden of Fluvanna Correctional Middle protested the ban. “We’re offering a chance for ladies to change into higher at coping with the world … a bit of that’s how we glance,” she instructed the Washington Publish on the time. The beauty clampdown was rolled again.

“Not giving individuals the chance to take care of their look is simply one other method of dehumanizing and making individuals really feel as in the event that they’re nugatory,” stated Vollen-Katz, who views restrictive beauty guidelines as one other instance of prisons overstepping their bounds. “We have moved away from rehabilitation and change into way more about retribution. Controlling girls has lengthy been on the forefront within the jail system.”

Crucial innovation

Over the a long time, pissed off prisoners have taken artistic approaches to amass cosmetics.

Within the Nineteen Twenties, girls inside England’s Holloway Jail scraped paint chips off their cell partitions to make use of as face powder and dampened crimson paper to make use of as rouge. In 1929, girls inmates in New Jersey surreptitiously used pages torn from jail library books to twist and curl their hair and “pencil(ed) their eyebrows with items of wooden lowered to charcoal,” in line with a neighborhood newspaper report. Within the Nineteen Fifties, wax paper turned a sizzling ticket merchandise when it was found that it could possibly be melted down and used to straighten hair or give it shine.

An inmate in Brazil double-checks her beauty look before competing in a beauty pageant at the Talavera Bruce Women's Prison in 2015.

An inmate in Brazil double-checks her magnificence look earlier than competing in a magnificence pageant on the Talavera Bruce Girls’s Jail in 2015. Credit score: Mario Tama/Getty Photographs

The eating corridor offered different sources. Girls pocketed sticks of butter and blended them with pencil shavings to create selfmade mascara and eye shadow. Within the Nineteen Sixties, girls used lightbulb shards to trim their hair into prohibited bobs (so-called masculine haircuts have been forbidden).

In the present day, everlasting markers have changed charcoal, Kool-Support doubles as hair dye, clear deodorant for blush and M&M’s are utilized in lieu of lip stain. Vollen-Katz will not be stunned by these DIY hacks. “There’s nothing fairly like deprivation to trigger one to innovate,” she stated. “I feel it is about self-preservation.”
Analysis means that entry to cosmetics reduces violence amongst inmates, a phenomenon credited to the heightened sense of vanity that attending to at least one’s look can deliver. Research discover that inmates with a better sense of self-worth additionally reintegrate better after serving their sentences. Even with out this knowledge, many penal reformers have seen entry to cosmetics as useful.

In 1945, Lord Thomas Caldecote appealed the UK’s ban on magnificence merchandise on the annual assembly of the Police Courts and Jail Gate Mission, a charity that helped reintegrate ex-convicts into society. “Girls are so misplaced with out cosmetics that even in jail they really feel just a little extra disreputable when cosmetics are missing,” he reportedly argued at a police assembly. He managed to persuade his friends and an experimental trial was instigated: every inmate allotted one lipstick, one field of powder and a jar of chilly cream.

A view of a former political prisoner in Bangkok cutting off donated lipstick tubes to be melted down and recycled for female inmates.

A view of a former political prisoner in Bangkok reducing off donated lipstick tubes to be melted down and recycled for feminine inmates. Credit score: Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP/Getty Photographs

As prisons reworked their guidelines, approval to buy and put on cosmetics typically went hand in hand with arbitrary constraints. Within the Forties, girls on the federal reformatory in Seagoville, Texas, have been permitted blush, lipstick and clear nail polish — with an emphasis on clear. “Try(s) to bypass this ruling by mixing lipstick with clear polish… did not work very effectively,” reported the Fort Price Star-Telegram.

Within the Nineteen Fifties, Canadian inmates have been allowed powder and lipstick however not eyeliner or mascara, an method additionally taken by New York’s Westfield State Farm Jail and Reformatory. “The ladies have been going overboard — we wish them to seem like women,” Westfield’s superintendent, Genevieve Meyer stated to the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper.

Cosmetology courses

Exterior influences have typically performed a task in getting cosmetics to prisoners. In 1970 in Chicago, philanthropic millionaire W. Clement Stone developed a jail attraction faculty. “We’re going to get these girls to suppose they’ve outer attraction, (then) they’ll work on their inner charm themselves,” he instructed Sepia journal on the time. This push was worldwide. In 1973, a German social employee instructed Reuters lipstick and nail varnish helped prisoners “overcome a sense of indifference and resignation.”
The expansion of jail magnificence faculties additionally reshaped the narrative round cosmetics. The faculties’ goal was twofold: They aimed to enhance inmates’ vanity and equip them with marketable abilities. Anna M. Kross, New York Metropolis commissioner of correction appointed in 1954, championed cosmetology courses. The beautification enterprise was a viable path to employment, she reasoned; in 1955 the US licensed round 500,000 cosmetologists, a big bounce from the 33,246 registered hair and nail stylists recorded in 1920 (cosmetology was not recorded as a single occupation on the time). Since then, it has been proven that previously incarcerated individuals who land jobs with progress potential discover it simpler to rejoin society and have considerably lower recidivism rates.

Kross’ early reforms included a makeover of the Girls’s Home of Detention, a bleak fortress-like constructing in Greenwich Village. The cells have been refurbished and the bars painted pastel pink. Her philosophy: An improved surroundings lays the groundwork for change.

Prisoners getting their hair cut by fellow inmates, who are learning to be hairdressers at HM Prison Styal, England.

Prisoners getting their hair reduce by fellow inmates, who’re studying to be hairdressers at HM Jail Styal, England. Credit score: Andrew Aitchison/Corbis/Getty Photographs

The wonder program opened contained in the Girls’s Home of Detention in 1956, outfitted with curling irons, dryers and electrical stoves the place Black inmates discovered to press, wash and wax their hair. In addition they acquired free periodic “ethical constructing” remedies, and a further remedy earlier than courtroom hearings. This was the primary time within the New York Metropolis Division of Correction’s historical past that funds have been allotted to girls’s training programs (typing, stitching and culinary arts adopted). The wonder salon was closely oversubscribed; its 1965 tally included 2,420 manicures, 1,239 haircuts, 8,627 tweezed eyebrows, 4,427 bleaches, 891 dyes, 4,055 shampoos and 9,082 presses.

In the present day cosmetology faculties are a well-known presence in girls’s prisons. “We’ve a zero recidivism price,” stated Christie Luther, who based the R.I.S.E cosmetology school contained in the Mabel Bassett Correctional Middle in Oklahoma, over the telephone. “Eighty-five % of our graduates are working proper now — in (hair salons like) Supercuts, Nice Clips, Sports activities Clips… many in administration roles.” However the pandemic has slowed progress, Luther stated. In 2020 her college students missed 247 days of faculty. “They have been devastated… they really feel empowered in school,” she stated. “The pink shirts (enrolled inmates obtain pink tees) give them an identification, they’re attempting to be particular person in a sea of orange.”
There has by no means been an umbrella coverage concerning inmates’ rights to entry make-up within the US, nor are there any particular provisions for individuals of coloration. Peaceable requests to resolve this have been unsuccessful; within the late Nineteen Seventies, male inmates at a correctional facility in Texarkana, Texas, petitioned the warden to inventory commissary beauty merchandise for Black inmates. The warden refused.
Newer attempts by inmates to ensure entry to cosmetics by authorized channels have additionally failed. In 1993 Michelle Murray, a transgender inmate on the Federal Correctional Establishment in Kentucky, filed a grievance alleging that denying her entry to magnificence merchandise “crucial for her to keep up a female look,” violated her eighth modification proper to not be subjected to merciless and weird punishment. The choose threw out her declare, declaring that “beauty merchandise usually are not among the many minimal civilized measure of life’s requirements.” In 2014, an identical declare by Ashley Jean Arnold, a trans lady incarcerated in Virginia, was rejected after a warden claimed Arnold’s cosmetics may provoke sexual assaults or allow her escape.
An inmate has her hair washed as she prepares to compete in the 13th annual Miss Talavera Bruce beauty pageant at the penitentiary the pageant is named for, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2018.

An inmate has her hair washed as she prepares to compete within the thirteenth annual Miss Talavera Bruce magnificence pageant on the penitentiary the pageant is known as for, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2018. Credit score: Silvia Izquierdo/AP

To some extent, the long-standing reluctance to offer inmates with cosmetics comes as no shock, contemplating how typically their primary hygiene wants are ignored. Girls pay for menstrual merchandise at most US prisons, typically forcing them to make the humiliating selection between sanitary requirements or calls to their family members. “There’s one thing actually unsuitable with taking people who exhibit a necessity for intervention and making life extra uncomfortable for them,” Vollen-Katz stated. As of 2019 solely 13 states have laws to offer pads, tampons and different menstrual merchandise with out cost.

This petty destruction of dignity illustrates the ability the jail trade exerts over girls’s our bodies, defined Vollen-Katz. “Look components into how girls see themselves and take into consideration themselves,” she stated. “Cosmetics usually are not a primary well being want, however in a system that strips individuals of identification, insurance policies that tear individuals down is a mistake.”

Whereas the best to rouge could seem insignificant in comparison with different prisoners’ campaigning points, it’s indicative of how the system typically fails to satisfy girls’s bodily and psychological wants.

These issues will solely have been exacerbated by Covid-19 lockdowns, and at the same time as provide chains get rebuilt, commissary shortages proceed to plague prisons and jails throughout the US. Nonetheless, for Joyce Pequeno, paroled earlier this 12 months, such worries are a factor of the previous. She follows the identical magnificence routine she had whereas incarcerated, however her acne-causing merchandise have been changed by hypoallergenic ones, and her pores and skin — and outlook — is clearer.

“It is actually essential to current your self as put collectively,” she stated. “However I’ve discovered to be versatile.”

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