Barbershop gives ex-cons fresh start

Owner honors  father’s legacy of helping ex-prisoners earn barber licenses

By Kim Kimzey
The Spartanburg Herald-Journal

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — Customers wait their turn for James Proctor at Southside Barber Shop.

Clippers buzz in Proctor’s right hand as he shaves and styles, sometimes stopping to eye his work or clean his tools.

“I love the idea that somebody might wake up one morning and say, ‘Man, I look bad. I’m gonna get a haircut.’ They get out of my chair — they feel on top of the world. They look good,” Proctor said.

Work also helps Proctor avoid the pitfalls of his past.

Proctor served 13 years for armed robbery. He was released just days before his 36th birthday on Sept. 1, 2011.

“My granddad, he was lobbying for me, in every barbershop you could imagine. And all of them said they didn’t have room for me, except D.J.,” Proctor said.

D.J. is Southside Barber Shop owner Daniel Jones. He took over the barbershop after the death of his father, the Rev. Peter Jones, in 2004.

The late owner and patriarch’s portrait hangs near the entrance. There also is a plaque in the shop that reminds people of his work to better others’ lives. The Rev. Peter Jones hired and helped dozens of ex-prisoners earn their barber’s licenses.

Daniel Jones wants to continue his father’s legacy.

Proctor is the latest. He received his barber apprentice license earlier this month.

The journey, Jones said, began three years ago.

At the time, Jones was having difficulty finding people who wanted to work with him because of his own past.

Jones said he enlisted in the Army after college and returned home to Spartanburg a “disgrace” to his father after he was discharged for drug use in 1987.

Daniel Jones found solace from his problems in alcohol. Cocaine seemed a “cure all,” and he developed a crack cocaine addiction.

His father’s support never wavered despite relapses. The Rev. Peter Jones gave his own son chances.

“He was an extraordinary man. He was just an advocate for people,” Jones said of his father.

Daniel Jones said he’s instructed about 15 barber students. Ten, he said, were ex-offenders.

An estimated two-thirds of 405,000 prisoners released in 2005 in 30 states were arrested for a new crime within three years of release from prison, according to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. South Carolina was among the 30 states included in the sample. According to the same report, 77 percent were arrested within five years.

Statistics from the S.C. Department of Corrections (DOC) show declining recidivism rates of inmates. About 12 percent of inmates released from the state DOC returned within a year in 2006, compared with 9.5 percent in 2011. Forty-two percent returned within five years of their release in 2006, compared with 37 percent in 2009.

It took Proctor 1,920 hours to earn his license. He worked at a fast food restaurant as his clientele grew.

Proctor said a criminal record like his makes it difficult to find a job. He said working as a barber has made him more financially stable — he’s able to afford a home and transportation. He also said he has a respectable career providing a service to the community.

 

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