We are all born with approximately 150,000 hair follicles, which, depending on our genes, bud into black or brown or blonde or curly or frizzy or straight locks. How we shape and style our strands is key to how we perceive ourselves… and how we compose ourselves to be perceived by those around us. This is especially true in juvenile custody, where every facility has their own rules regarding hair. In some facilities, where ¬†juvenile inmates wear uniforms or jumpsuits, their hair is their only venue for visual self-expression.

Below are examples from a detention center in Miami (pre-adjudication) and a secure facility in Delaware (post-adjudication).

I’m in 9th grade. I’ve been here for two days. For trespassing, fighting, and stuff… by a school. I’m in confinement ’cause I was disorderly to a guard. My dad is a barber, my mom is a C.O [corrections officer]. I’ll be here for like 19 days… then I go to court.


– E.M, age unknown, in confinement at Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Miami, Florida.

Above and Below: Boys at Ferris School in Delaware get haircuts. The service is provided by private contractors. Half the boys go to church while the other half gets their haircut.

In Miami, the young boy had arrived at the center with his pictured hair cut. In Delaware, where juveniles have received their sentences, they all get the same buzz cut. The justification for regularized haircuts is that they promote discipline, equanimity, and hygiene among youth. At the same time, it eliminates a key facet of identity for these teenagers. So I pose a question, what type of hair/grooming policies are the most beneficial to the successful rehabilitation of a young person in prison?

2 thoughts on “Hair and Identity

  1. Discipline is abstract but necessary in human survival, Perhaps cutting an identity of a young man who fell from his actions won’t going to solve the check. Studying a social anthropology science in subculture is a must! Thinking radically, We must not prevent this post war survivors in letting their continuations go but rather fixing a system and revolution is one of the mainstays in humanity.

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