Okla. inmate rehab program teaches cosmetology skills

The R.I.S.E. Program provides inmates with a free cosmetology education and partners with salons to help hire program graduates

By Darla Slipke
The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City

MCLOUD, Okla. — When a judge offered to release Stacey Goad from prison in January, she said she asked him to postpone her release by six months.

Goad wanted to graduate from the R.I.S.E. Program, a cosmetology school at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center. On Tuesday, she proudly accepted her certificate of completion with her mom, aunt and two of her children watching.

"This is the first thing I've ever accomplished in life, and I knew if I would have left before I had this license, I wouldn't be able to get out there and be productive like I need to be in society," said Goad, a blue cap and gown covering her bright orange and pink prison garb. " ... I just knew this was where God wanted me to be. He put me in the program for a reason, and I needed to finish it.'

Goad, 37, a mother of three, was among 13 female inmates who graduated from the program. The graduates completed 1,500 hours of training. Next week, they will take their state cosmetology board test.

One by one, the graduates walked across the front of the prison's visitation room Tuesday and posed for photos with their certificates. Some of the women pumped their fists or raised their arms in triumph. Dozens of family members and other supporters cheered and applauded.

Goad, who is serving time for drug trafficking, has been sober for two years. She's slated to be released next week, and she already has a job lined up at an Oklahoma City salon.

"I feel like I have a new start in life," she said.

Tuesday's graduates marked the program's second graduating class. Christie Luther, the R.I.S.E Program's executive director, founded the nonprofit in 2017. She saw a need while she was working in the beauty shop at Eddie Warrior Correctional Center, where she was incarcerated from 2008 to 2012. Luther, a licensed cosmetologist, wanted to empower other women.

The Department of Corrections provides the space for the program, and the R.I.S.E. Program pays for the rest through grants and donations. Luther said said they are working to open a second school at Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft.

In addition to providing inmates with a free cosmetology education while they're in prison, the nonprofit also helps the women after they are released by partnering with transitional homes and salons that will hire program graduates. The nonprofit also works with churches and recovery support groups to help the women successfully transition back into society, Luther said.

Graduates can use a resource center in Oklahoma City to pick up the career tools they need to start working and clothes to wear for job interviews.

"It’s pretty remarkable to have a front row seat to watch them change," Luther said.

The biggest surprise has been the family restoration that has stemmed from the program, Luther said. The R.I.S.E. Program operates a Facebook page where organizers post photos of the inmates going through their training.

"I get emails and letters and phone calls from their family members saying, 'I see what my mom’s doing,' 'I see what my daughter’s doing,' and they’re so proud of them," Luther said, choking up.

When Ashley Garrison came to prison, she kept her head down and never looked people in the eye. She hated herself.

The R.I.S.E Program helped her to gain self confidence and to be more comfortable in her own skin. It made her into someone who she can look in the mirror and be proud of, she said. She held her head high Tuesday when she graduated with a master instructor certificate, which requires an additional 1,000 hours of training.

"We're not just doing hair and nails," said Garrison, 32. "This is so much more than just that. We address the human condition. There really is a genuine human revolution that happens through this program if you want it to."

Garrison's mom and younger sister were in the crowd to cheer her on.

"I'm so unbelievably proud," her sister, Shelby Lanham said. She hadn't seen Garrison in 11 years.

Garrison is serving a 20-year sentence for child neglect after her daughter died from sudden infant death syndrome. After she's released from prison, she said she hopes to return to Mabel Bassett to teach other women through the R.I.S.E. Program.

"I feel my life has purpose," she said.

©2019 The Oklahoman

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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