Kaitlynne Buis’ day as assistant manager at Great Clips includes a variety of people coming in and out of the door, ready for a haircut.
Customers sit down and Buis performs her passion, chatting away to the person in the chair. She might ask them how their day has been or what plans they have as she gently works on their hair.
Though she loves her job now, it took her a while after earning her license to connect with it. It took someone taking a chance on her.
“I fell in love with it out in the field,” Buis said. “I love the communication with people. You just make people's day. There's people that come in and they can just be having the worst day, and you just make them feel beautiful.”
She has been a hairstylist for 13 years now, surviving a few different career changes and jumping to different salons.
“I always find my way back, so it shows that this is really where my heart is at,” Buis said. “I love what I do. There's no question about that.”
Her passion leads her to a unique clientele on the last Wednesday of every month. She switches her environment of chatting co-workers and soft, background music at Great Clips to the strict structure of the Delaware County Jail.
Instead of a customer wandering into her from the street, they get led to her by a correctional officer, being handcuffed while they sit in the chair. Buis described many of them as quiet and respectful.
She has to be deliberate about what she wears; typically a T-shirt and non-ripped jeans. She brings in the basic equipment she’ll need; the same things she’d use at her mainstream job, like scissors, a comb, razors, a mirror, etc.
The security process is quick and simple for her now, with the guards already knowing what she’s there for. She walks through the halls with confidence in what she’s doing.
Once she gets behind the bars, she gets led into a court-appointed attorney room to set up. She’ll push the table to the back of the room and lay out her supplies. She then puts a chair in the front, putting herself in between the inmate and her supplies on the table.
As she sparks small conversations with them, she gets to work. She tells them about her day and what she plans to do, like going to a football game or a concert. She doesn’t ask them personal information, like why they’re there or what they did.
“They have a lot of personal stuff going on with them,” she said. “I could only imagine. Usually, if they want to talk then they will, if they don't want to talk then they won't.”
Buis has been providing her services at the jail for a little over a year. She starts at 1 p.m. and cuts hair until she has finished the last customer, a process that takes her two to four hours.
When she heard the jail was looking for someone to fill this role, she took the opportunity to help her save money to grow her family of two sons with her husband. After her baby’s death in 2015 and due to health reasons, Buis has decided to look into adoption. The haircuts, which cost $18 with beard trims being $8, help get her to her dream.
Inmates are not allowed to have money in their possession, so the way they get money to spend is through their personal prisoner trust fund, referred to as commissary money, according to the Prison Fellowship. Family is responsible for putting money into an inmate’s commissary.
The haircuts come out of an inmate’s commissary. However, if they are a trustee— meaning they are employed at the jail, the cuts are free. Trustee is a privilege given to only nonviolent criminals.
The most visible distinction between the two is the color of their jumpsuits. Trustees wear pink while the rest wear orange.
Though the environment and process is different from a regular salon, she still gets regulars, like Justin Hudson.
Hudson has gotten his hair cut eight times in two years. Hudson, as a trustee working in the kitchen washing dishes, gets the haircuts for free.
He enjoys the process of getting his hair a bit freshened up. It makes him “feel a little like a different person,” and “it takes up a little time” out of his normal day.
He finds it nice to talk to a different person “‘cause you see the same thing in here all the time.”
Chance Herbert, unlike Hudson, is not a trustee; he has to pay for the haircut out of his commissary. He pays for it because he likes to keep his hair done and “it’s one of the things that’s part of the outside world.”
“She does this on the outside. She’s using actual real clippers and everything,” Herbert said
Brandin Hernak also has to pay for his haircuts. Before prison, he would get his hair done weekly, keeping it short. Now that he’s been in jail, he’s grown it out in an “Elvis” style.
To pass the time in the jail, Hernak likes to read books; right now, he’s been reading a lot of philosophy books. He gets haircuts for himself. Though he can’t see his hair, he can feel it.
Another aspect Hernak likes about getting his hair done, just like Herbet and Hudson, is that it breaks up the mundanity of incarceration. He said his wake up and lights out time are at the same time every day, passing the time throughout the days by reading, sleeping, playing cards, working out and eating.
Zachary Rowe, a correctional officer (CO) at the jail, and Buis’ brother, sees the benefits of Buis coming in once a month on both sides.
He gets to see his sister save up money for her family, and sees the inmates get to experience something from the outside.
“They feel nice for a while,” Rowe said. “Obviously, the stress of jail tends to weigh them down.”
Rowe has been a CO at the jail for five years and described it as “the best job [he’s] ever had.”
“You get to see different people from different walks of life, and sometimes there are glory stories of people going through recovery and making it through,” Rowe said. “Unfortunately, we all know that there’s not.”
The jail offers haircuts once a month to help maintain hygiene, Rowe said. According to Indiana Department of Corrections Policy and Administrative Procedure, each “intake facility shall offer each offender a haircut.”
Inmates also have the right to have their hair cut before they appear in trial, which has led to Buis coming in on her off days to help fulfill that right, though it has only happened one time.
People’s desire to feel good about their appearance doesn’t stop at the jail walls, which is why Buis said she continues to do it.
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