Mecklenburg Co. Detention Center opens barber school program for young inmates

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Young inmates at the Mecklenburg County Jail can now take part in the only barber school program behind bars in the North Carolina jail system.

Monday, Ausie's Barber School officially opened at the Mecklenburg County Detention Center.

The name "Ausie" pays tribute to the first black barber who opened a shop in Cornelius.

It will be a 13-month course, where at the end, five students have the chance to get their barber's license.

"When these men walk out of barber school, they will have a job," Mecklenburg County Sheriff Gary McFadden said.

The Director for Adult Program Dorian Johnson said getting people reaquainted with life on the outside can be tough, but they have had some recent success.

"Our biggest challenge with our youth is that they are not in control of their environment so we program them here, but they have to go back home," Johnson said.

Johnson said only 29 percent of adults who were in custody during fiscal year 2017 ended up back in jail a year later.

He said that is below the national average of 68 percent, giving hope to those who don't believe one mistake should define you.

A 17-year-old inmate, who is behind bars for a serious crime Channel 9 has covered, said the inmate staff have encouraged him to think past it.

"There are people that genuinely care about us, that touches me. Sgt. McFadden, I talked to him a few times," the 17-year-old inmate said. "He always shows me respect. He shows that he cares about us. I wanna do something with myself. I wanna show them an example of you can change. There are no excuses. It's all about if you want to."

If an inmate is released before finishing the program, NC Works in Mecklenburg County will pay their tuition to complete it at another barber school.