Shaving. It’s one of those things that you have to do, and for many people it’s a rite of passage. There is an entire industry that makes millions from selling shaving creams, gels, and fancy razors. Hair removal is big business – from electric razors to waxing – people love to spend money to make sure hair isn’t growing in unwanted places.
Shaving is something people in the free world take for granted. There is unlimited access to all kinds of tools and accessories to help you make sure your body hair is exactly how you want it to be. But, when you are locked up, all of that changes.
When I was first taken to prison, I had to spend three weeks in R&O (Receiving and Orientation). Prisoners in R&O aren’t allowed access to the majority of items at the prison store (commissary). With the exception of basic hygiene items like deodorant, shampoo, and toothpaste, I wasn’t allowed to have anything else in my possession, and that meant my body hair got the chance to grow and grow.
I’m gonna get real for a minute. By the end of my 21 days in R&O, I had hairs on my chin that were so long they were starting to curl. When the officers came into the unit in the middle of the night to strip search everyone, I had to squat and cough with armpits full of hair and a bikini line that was too bushy for my liking.
It was humiliating. To be honest, not being allowed to properly groom myself was traumatic. It made me feel less than human.
As a former inmate, one of the questions I get the most is: can you shave in prison?
This blog post will cover:
The moment I was released from R&O and into general population, the first thing I did was find a razor. At the prison I was in, you could purchase single-blade anti-shank razors from the commissary.
What is a single-blade anti-shank razor? It is a tiny razor about two inches long with a flimsy blade that hardly works at all. But, it’s better than nothing. The reason it is so short and bendy is to prevent inmates from turning it into a weapon, hence the, “anti-shank,” name.
I had to wait a week to go to the store, so luckily I was able to find someone who loaned me a razor as soon as I got to the yard. I’m not gonna lie, it took two razors and a long shower to shave my legs, armpits, and bikini line. It was quite the process.
Not every prison allows razors, but the majority does give prisoners access to a razor in some way. However, there are strict rules about how many you can have in your possession at one time, and they must be completely intact when your items are searched. A broken down razor is considered contraband, and you can go to the hole for having one.
Many commissaries also sell electric razors, but they are cheap and don’t work very well. The ones sold at WERDCC often caused skin damage and rashes, so they weren’t a big seller.
I should mention that most prison commissaries don’t sell shave cream or gel, so inmates have to lather up with soap to shave.
Can you shave your legs in prison? Yes. As a general rule, women’s prisons do have some kind of access to razors so the inmates can shave their legs. But, depending on your security level, there could be some major restrictions.
Some prisons don’t sell razors, and instead the prison will issue them for a limited amount of time. This means guards will come into the housing unit and allow you to check out a razor for about 20 minutes.
You have to rush to the shower, clean yourself up, shave, and then get out and race back to the officer before the time is up to return the razor, or else you will be punished.
As a rule, it’s the same situation in male prisons. However, men are more likely to use electric razors to keep their face shaved. Obviously, hair removal isn’t as much of an issue for men as it is for women. A five o’clock shadow isn’t nearly as traumatic as hairy armpits or Chewbacca legs.
Razors are available through the commissary or issued on a time limit so the men can keep their facial hair to a minimum if they choose to do so.
Most prisons have some kind of barbershop or cosmetology school so inmates can get haircuts. At the women’s prison where I was incarcerated, you could earn chemical services like hair color or relaxer with good behavior.
In some men’s prisons, the inmates can get a shave at the barbershop. However, this is usually a head shave and not a face shave.
As for the ladies, there is an entire side hustle when it comes to hair removal. Women who know how to, “string,” can make some serious cash. This skillㄧalso known as threadingㄧis a method of facial hair removal using string. Since you can’t get a wax and tweezers are a no-no, this was the only way to keep your eyebrows and mustache from getting out of control.
This is how I got rid of those nasty curly chin pubes when I left R&O. I was lucky enough to get a roommate who knew how to string, and I paid her to do it on the regular. It was money well spent.
Are you surprised that prisoners are allowed to shave? Let us know in the comments below.
Sources: Bob Barker Anti-Shank Razor https://www.bobbarker.com/anti-shank-razor.html Bob Barker Battery-Operated Razor https://www.bobbarker.com/battery-operated-razor.html Six Ways Women’s Prison Is More Horrifying Than It Looks On TV https://www.cracked.com/personal-experiences-1548-6-ways-womens-prison-more-horrifying-than-it-looks-tv.html
Natalie earned her Bachelors degree in Journalism from the University of Kansas, and has worked in television and radio during her career. When she was a 19-year-old sophomore at KU, she got her first on-air job as a sports reporter for a CBS-TV affiliate. In 2013, she was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the possession and production of marijuana. She was released in 2017. We've kept her last name off of our website so that she does not experience any professional hardship for her contributions.
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