Posted on February 1, 2024

A New California Bill Aims to Ensure Incarcerated People of Color Have Access to Suitable Hair Products

Marci Robin, Allure, January 25, 2024

No one going to prison expects a spa experience from the canteens and commissaries selling personal-care products to the population. But what many incarcerated people of color have come to discover is that they can’t even expect to find products that serve the basic needs of natural hair, while their white counterparts have access to options that work for their hair types. Anecdotes like that of Jane Dorotik, who told Allure she witnessed what seemed like an intentional withholding of suitable hair products from Black inmates while she served two decades in a California correctional facility, are not uncommon. And now, a new bill seeks to create a less discriminatory hair-care inventory at prison canteens in California.

Last week, Assemblymember Tina McKinnor, Assemblymember Isaac Bryan, and Senator Steven Bradford introduced Assembly Bill 1875. “This bill, the Culturally Competent Hair Care Act, would, commencing January 1, 2028, require the department, and local jail and detention facilities if they have a store, to additionally provide sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners, curl creams, and gel,” the legislation reads.

The bill is sponsored by Beauty Beyond Bars, a nonprofit organization that seeks to empower incarcerated people with personal-care products through donation drives, awareness campaigns, and, in this particular case, legislative advocacy.

“I recognized the need for beauty and hygiene accessibility in correctional facilities during my interviews with formerly incarcerated people,” Beauty Beyond Bars executive director Lea Nepomuceno said in a statement. {snip}


{snip} “The fact that culturally competent hair care products aren’t already mandated to be sold at correctional facilities demonstrates clear bias towards straight hair,” Nepomuceno says. {snip}