North Carolina Sheriff Garry McFadden Offers Black Teen Inmates Barber Shop Training

The head of the Charlotte detention center, and grandson of a barber, wants to make sure teens walk out of jail with a job.

Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden wants to make sure Black teens have options after serving time.

He opened Ausie’s Barber School on Monday at the Mecklenburg County Detention Center. The name “Ausie” pays tribute to the first Black barber who opened a shop in Cornelius.

Five inmates, all between ages 16 and 18, are the first class of the first barber school in a North Carolina jail. The 13-month course ends in the opportunity to get a barbers’ license.

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

Unemployment for formerly incarcerated people is nearly five times higher than the unemployment rate for the general US population. For Black men and women, the numbers are higher, thanks to employer discrimination.

Not on McFadden’s watch.

Mecklenburg County Detention Center also had a job fair recently for those nearing their release, where 33 inmates were hired that day.

For those attending the barber school in jail, if they are released early, tuition will be paid for them to finish at a school in the community.

If they are not released, they will be transferred to the other jail in the state with this kind of program for adults— Harnett Correctional Institution.

Harnett Correctional Institution’s barber school program was the model for McFadden when he researched starting the program for the teens at his jail.

Forty-four percent of the 48,043 youth in juvenile facilities, as of October 2015, are African-American.

Studies show 63 percent of Black youth return to jail after being released multiple times.

Unfortunately, jail has become a community place for Black youth.

In the Black community at large, barber shops are a place of safety, belonging and community for Black men and boys.

“The barbers are your friend. You’ll keep your barber before you’ll keep your doctor, and most people don’t know that,” McFadden said. “You will trust your barber before you’ll trust some of your good friends, even your pastor.”

McFadden, the grandson of a barber, decided to use barbershops as a way to connect Black teens to community, new skills for jobs in the community and new lives.