FOX 32 gets a look into Stateville prison`s cutting edge program - Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston

FOX 32 gets a glimpse into Stateville prison`s cutting edge program

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

It could be called a cutting-edge program, and what's being cut, is hair.

FOX 32 got a rare look inside Illinois' maximum security Stateville Correctional Center and its barber college, where a handful of inmates are learning a trade that someday they hope they can practice outside the prison walls.

Stateville prison inmates spend much of the day in their cells, but they do get to leave them for exercise, meals, health care and classes.

Fifteen inmates, some of them convicted murderers show up each weekday morning at 6 a.m. for barber school. After two hours covering topics like barbershop management, there's lunch, then the inmates head for the barbershop where they are taught by instructor Bobby Mattison.

The inmates sharpen their skills on other Stateville inmates. Candidates for barber school must have a GED, and score perfect tens on their reading and math tests, and then convince Mattison they're serious about a career.

"What I look for basically is why you really want to be in the program," Mattison says. "Is it because you just want to get out of your cell, or is it because you really want to better yourself? " Or, is it an opportunity to get their hands on some scissors, or razors, that they couldn't otherwise possess in the prison setting? There's often just a single guard keeping an eye on the students, but security, or missing instruments, has never been a problem."

The head of the Department of Corrections, Salvador Godinez, says they've never had an incident where an instrument couldn't be accounted for.

"We have never had an incident here in the barber school where we have lost a tool, lost some equipment. Chemicals are used here to sanitize, we've had nothing of that sort happen," Godinez said.

Stateville's had a barber school for 30 years or so, but it wasn't until last November that the rules were changed so that inmates who completed 1,500 hours of training would actually get a state barber's license.

"It at least gives them the viable skill that can be made available to them in terms of employment when they leave our facilities," Godinez said.

"It's an opportunity to become a professional and produce some positive changes in who I am," student inmate Anthony Thomas said.

"Being able to cut hair and interact with people all day is something you don't really get to do when you're in a cell. So it's a great experience, it's a great learning curve," student inmate Joshua Minnitti added.

And the learning includes how to assess your customer's needs beyond a haircut, for example, how to listen when they want to chat.

"I already knew how to cut hair, but I didn't know how to be a barber. So this is a good thing to prepare you to get you back to society," student inmate Leon Cannon said.

Statewide, about 40 percent of all inmates are released within a year of their incarceration, so officials are now starting to reserve most of the spots in the class for inmates who are likely to be released soon, so they can make use of their license. But classes do include inmates like Albert Domagala, who gave FOX 32's Larry Yellen a trim.

Domagala laughed and told Yellen he had nothing to be afraid of when he asked about his murder conviction. He's serving 40 years for murder, but the Illinois Supreme Court recently ordered another look at his conviction.

There are barber colleges in three other Illinois prisons, but Stateville is the only maximum security correctional center to have such a program.

Four correctional centers in Illinois are now training barbers, but Stateville is the only maximum security prison with such a program.

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