Eight Rhode Island Department of Corrections inmates have donated their hair through the Locks of Love Program since the beginning of 2008. Locks of Love is a Florida-based non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the U.S. and Canada under age 18 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis. Donated hair is used to create hair prosthetics which are in turn used “to help restore self-esteem and confidence, enabling these children to face the world and their peers,” according to the organization’s website.
The RIDOC has been involved with Locks of Love through Frank Bruno Jr., who runs the barbering apprenticeship program wherein inmates become licensed barbers while in prison. If an inmate expresses an interest in donating to Locks of Love, Frank cuts their hair, has an inmate assistant put it in rubber bands and envelopes and send it off to the organization in Lake Worth, Florida.
“Sometimes the guys are tired of their long hair,” notes Frank, “and they’re proud to help out kids – everyone has a soft spot for kids – and it gives them a little humanity.” The inmate donor receives one certificate to pass along to his or her adult counselor and one to keep. Inmate donors also receive a thank you card from Locks of Love which reads, in part, “Your donation of hair will help return smiles to the many varied faces of our children. On behalf of those children, their families, and the Board of Directors, THANK YOU – YOU MADE A DIFFERENCE!”
Although he hasn’t kept formal statistics, Frank estimates he’s had about 30 to 40 inmates donate their hair over the several years he’s been involved with the program. Only one has been a woman. The donation must be at least six inches, and it takes six to ten ponytails for Locks of Love to make one hairpiece. Once the donations are received in Florida, the tedious process of sorting (only longer pieces can be used) and color matching begins.
Locks of Love does not solicit for donations – it’s mostly word of mouth – but they do receive hair from inmates around the country.