Frank Bruno Jr., who runs the Rhode Island Department of Corrections’ barbering apprenticeship program wherein inmates become licensed barbers while in prison, happily accepted a significant donation last month. When Carol Luciano of Luciano’s Hair Design in Narragansett replaced the cutting chairs in her beauty salon, she thought of a regular customer who happens to be a RIDOC employee. Carol remembered the customer talking about the successful program at the ACI and wondered if it could use her chairs. She contacted Frank Bruno, who has since found places for all six chairs – four of which are now at the Intake Service Center, one at men’s Minimum, and one in Frank’s office awaiting future placement.
Though he’s been cutting hair in the prisons since 1968, Frank inaugurated the two-year apprenticeship program in 1998 and has since seen over 150 inmates complete it and leave prison with their barbering license from the Department of Health. Many of them now run barbershops around the country and remain in touch with Frank or have local jobs they obtained through their connection with Frank.
While there are no formal statistics on the program’s graduates, Frank believes those who stay committed and involved have a very low recidivism rate. They leave with a marketable skill and can go out and earn an honest living. Having six additional chairs, which the Department could never have purchased with its own funds, will help Frank as he continues to expand the program. He originally accommodated about 15 inmates across seven buildings and is now up to 50. In addition to classroom time, the participants also cut the hair of fellow inmates. Inmates are entitled to a hair cut approximately every 30 days while in prison.
“The barbershop apprenticeship program Frank Bruno runs is one of our most successful in terms of preparing inmates for successful reentry into the community,” notes Corrections Director A.T. Wall. “One of the greatest challenges ex-offenders face when they leave prison is finding a job so they can provide for their families and stay out of trouble,” he notes. “Those who complete this program leave with a viable skill and most have no trouble finding employment. These donated chairs will help this important program to expand and will allow more offenders to benefit from it while behind the walls.”