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Children who have lost their hair because of illness have found new friends through a program that allows California inmates to donate their hair for children’s wigs.

Inmates in California prisons who cut off their long hair to comply with newly adopted grooming standards can send their braids and ponytails to a company in Florida that makes the small wigs. In this “everyone wins” arrangement, the inmates will benefit from knowing they have helped a group of children, and the children will get a hair replacement that allows them to look good and feel good about themselves.

“We are encouraging any inmates who are interested to participate in this program,” said C.A. Terhune, Director of the Department of Corrections. “It’s a chance for many of these men and women to do something positive for society, even from their prison cell.”

The program was launched last month, and already inmates are responding. Already seven inmates from Calipatria State Prison and six from Wasco State Prison have sent their hair to “Locks of Love,” a non-profit organization headquartered in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. As more inmates clip their hair to meet the new requirements for short hair, additional donations are expected.

The donated hair must be at least eight inches long, washed, dried, braided together and packaged in a plastic bag. The inmates each receive a note of thanks from the organization, which then makes the wigs and hair pieces. These are provided free to deserving children throughout the nation who are suffering from long-term illnesses such as cancer that cause hair loss.

New grooming standards were adopted to promote inmates’ personal hygiene, to protect public safety and to improve prison security. The new grooming standards require that inmates keep their hair clean and short (no more than three inches), without any patterns shaved into their hair. The standards also prohibit beards and limit the size and length of mustaches and sideburns. Fingernails may not extend more than 1/4 inch beyond the end of the finger. Female inmates must have short hair or wear it up so that it does not extend beyond the bottom of the shirt collar. The standards also prohibit body piercing and limit female inmate’s jewelry and makeup.