The beauty salon near the Central Prison in Thiruvananthapuram is run by a few male inmates who received beautician course training.

Prison inmates in Kerala turn abandoned building into a mens beauty salon
news Human Interest Wednesday, December 18, 2019 - 08:34

From the road outside, it looks like a traditional old naaluketu (homestead) with the orange-red pyramid rooftop. A board in blue and red says ‘Freedom Looks’ Gents Beauty Parlour.

A day ago, this place, near the Poojappura Central prison in Thiruvananthapuram, was crowded. A unit of the Central Prison, Thiruvananthapuram, was launching the salon, run, maintained and even built by its make inmates. Prison Director-General of Police (DGP) Rishiraj Singh and IPS officer Sreelekha inaugurated the parlour on Monday morning, as many cameras clicked away. The parlour’s first customer was Rishiraj himself, who got a head massage from one of the men in pink uniform.

The room is splashed in pink – the curtains, the tabletops, the ceiling connectors, all in shades of pink and purple. “We all thought it up together,” says jail superintendent B Sunil Kumar. The rate card neatly pasted outside the room lists a number of beauty services, including hair treatments and facials, all at reasonable prices.

The idea to start a beauty parlour came from Sreelekha when she learnt that the male inmates received beautician training with the help of the Women’s Polytechnic College in Thiruvananthapuram. “The inmates are given several job-oriented trainings. As part of this, 22 men who were interested in the beautician course, were given training. Now, what’s the use of them learning the course and sitting with their certificate diplomas, if they can’t practice it? That’s how the parlour was built,” Sunil Kumar says.

It wasn’t easy. They had no idea where to start one. “That’s when we thought of this unused building on the Poojappura-Karamana road. It belongs to the jail, but was in a bad state as it was unused for a long time. But the inmates renovated it and turned it into a beautiful building. From construction to carpentry to painting, they did it all. So it was renovated at a much lower cost,” says the superintendent.

He says that there is no lack of manpower in the prison but in the earlier days, their skills were hardly used, and the prison worked mostly as a confinement centre. It is later that it evolved into a correctional centre. Inmates were offered education as well as training for various jobs that could prepare them for a life outside when they are released from the prison.

“The idea of prison is to help in the reformation, correction and rehabilitation of the inmates. It is important that they are rehabilitated properly,” Sunil Kumar says.

However, surprisingly, the women prisoners have not yet been offered a beautician course. “This question was answered by the DGP on Monday. He said that there are plans to do it soon. They are, of course, given vocational training in other areas,” Sunil Kumar adds.

There are about 200 to 250 women prisoners in Poojappura and 70 per cent of them are in remand. Then there are 1,358 male prisoners.

The male prisoners are really busy this December. The annual Jail Welfare Day is happening and the preparations are in full swing. “It is not just one day, but a nine-day programme. There will be a lot of cultural programmes and competitions. Artistes and performers will perform various shows, including a cinematic dance show, tribal arts, Kerala People's Arts Club play, poetry recital, mentalism and magic and a dance fest by transgender persons. The inmates would also join the cultural shows and competitions,” says Sunil Kumar 

He also stresses that there is no dearth of business skills. “It was only last week that some inmates jumped into the pond on the prison campus, where we have grown various fish varieties, including local fish. They caught the fish from the pond, which were sold just outside the prison gates. They earned a total of Rs 53,100 from the sales,” says a proud superintendent.

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