Coffee Creek’s Life-changing Cosmetology Program

Coffee Creek Correctional Facility’s (CCCF) cosmetology program is about more than manicures and dye jobs. For many of the women incarcerated at CCCF, the program is the first step in making a better life for themselves. Whether they are training in the Hair Design program or having tattoos removed that remind them of a painful past, the program offers hope for a brighter future.

The messages below were submitted by three adults in custody (AICs) at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility who have experience with the cosmetology program. They have been edited for clarity by the Oregon DOC Office of Communications.

AIC Sarah Erickson, Advanced Aesthetics student

October 6, 2015 was the first day of a new beginning for me. It was my first day in the Hair Design program here at Coffee Creek. I have been given so many opportunities since entering the cosmetology program. Upon my completion of Hair Design, I moved on to becoming a clerk, where I learned more about what happens behind the scenes of running a salon.

Now I have been given yet another opportunity. I am currently one of four students enrolled in the Advanced Aesthetics program. Being involved in this program is very important to me, as it has touched me personally. We are changing women’s lives everyday by helping the remove tattoos from their bodies. These tattoos have many negative memories attached to them. Whether it is from domestic violence, drug use, or gang affiliation, we are able to give these women a second chance and an opportunity to move forward from their pasts.

Aside from tattoo removal we are also learning services such as photo facials, skin tightening, and photo rejuvenation, just to name a few. This is an intense six-month program, which involves a lot of independent study time, self-motivation, and tons of hands on experience. I look forward to completing this program and adding an Advanced Aesthetics license to my arsenal of tools to use upon my release from Coffee Creek.

Working in the field of cosmetology has opened my eyes and helped me discover a passion and talent I would have otherwise never known. The ability to turn being incarcerated and being away from my family and loved ones into something sustainable for my future brings me a sense of pride I never knew I could obtain. I now have the tools to provide a stable life for myself and my children, and that feels amazing!

Sarah A. Erickson
AIC Carrie Ames

“There is a popular belief that as humans, we must find our individual purpose in order to achieve happiness. The cosmetology program was an attempt to find my life purpose, and it turned out to be exactly that.

I’ve always been driven, creative, and hardworking. In the past I did not have a positive central focus to direct these energies and I ended up coming to prison. I was very fortunate that CCCF offered an educational course that interested me. In 2014, I was accepted into the Coffee Creek School of Cosmetology. My goal was to become a licensed hairstylist, nail technician, and esthetician. I achieved that goal in 2016 and was offered the opportunity to expand my education in the Master Educator program. The course is one year long and involves tutoring cosmetology students, academic self-study, developing and implementing lesson plans, interpersonal communication, leadership skills, and so much more.

I was very surprised that the Master Educator course was my niche. I loved sharing and receiving knowledge, implementing new ideas, and organizing various daily functions in the salon. My teacher observed my passion and dedication and encouraged me to pursue a teacher’s registration. In 2019, my application was approved and I was granted my teachers registration for all three fields of practice in cosmetology.

My educational opportunities have completely changed the tone of my life. I’ve been pushed further than I thought I could go. I have found a career that is quick-paced, ever-changing, and impossible to get bored with. I have found the perfect outlet to direct my energy and passion. Cosmetology is my life purpose.”

Carrie Ames
AIC Joyce Pequeno shows bare arms once covered in tattoos

“My name is Joyce Pequeno and I want to share a little of what the tattoo removal process means to me. I probably will not be able to accurately express the enormity of what I feel but I will certainly try. I got my tattoos at the age of 13 when I was at an extremely low place in my life and I was involved with a group of people I would have, at that time, laid down my life for. Needless to say I no longer hold to those same ideals.

There are some graphic memories that go behind my tattoos that I will not go into. However, I will say that to not have to look at these tattoos and be reminded daily of all that went before them is something I will be grateful for, for the rest of my life. I have learned so much in the eleven years that I have been incarcerated and I’ve changed, so much so that I am actually proud of the woman I am today.

I have graduated from the School of Cosmetology and I’m now a master educator teaching current students. I am thankful for this enormous opportunity that has allowed me to be able to erase these reminders of the girl I used to be and there are absolutely no words to be able to fully express my relief and gratitude.”

Joyce Pequeno

You can learn more about Coffee Creek’s tattoo removal program by visiting the Oregon Governor’s Blog and reading KATU’s 2018 article, A Cleaner Slate.