Prison inmates in California finding redemption through beauty

CHOWCHILLA, CA -- Hidden behind multiple security gates inside Valley State Prison, you will find a fully functioning beauty school run by a team of inmates.

Like many others at this medium security facility, Benjamin Gomez came from a rough place.

"Life full of gang banging, crime, pretty much everything you can think of," he said.

But in this barren land traced with razor wire, is a class on cosmetology involving manis, pedis, and gentle facials.

"I know what I was getting into but I didn't picture it like this," said Gomez.

That softened a room full of gruff, tattooed men.

"It's kinda weird," Gomez said. "I gotta scrub the homies feet or give him a facial and clean him up."

Gomez is serving time for manslaughter and the man in his chair the day we stopped by was there for second degree murder. But none of those labels seem to matter to their teacher, Carmen Shehorn.

"It's not my place to judge them or to punish them," Shehorn says. "People can make mistakes, you know, and obviously lifelong mistakes because some of them are here for life."

Since the program opened to men in 2013, Shehorn's had more than a dozen graduates complete 1,600 hours worth of training; two have gone on to pass the state licensing exam.

"Very fulfilling, you know, it's like, I say it and I say it again, but it's like I got my license all over again for the first time," said Shehorn.

Gomez is nearing the end of his 11-year sentence and already looking to the day he opens his own barber shop.

"It hasn't been easy and it's still a learning process when I get out, but that I'm working, you know, every day to become a better me, a better person," Gomez said.

A better man who no longer has shackles and a jumpsuit define him.
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