Cook Co. juvenile detention center opening barber school

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Young people in Chicago are being given a second chance, thanks to a program set up by Cook County Chief Judge Tim Evans. (WLS)

Young people in Chicago are being given a second chance, thanks to a program set up by Cook County Chief Judge Tim Evans.

And one of them may cut your hair one day.

It's another chance for success, as the Cook County's Juvenile Temporary Detention Center opens its own barber school.

"These are our kids, and when we help them, we help us," said Leonard Dixon, JTDC superintendent.

The program is officially known as the S.T.A.R. Barber College, which stands for Standing Tall Against Recidivism.

"We lock them up, but we got to give them something to not go to the same route they've been going to," said Bobby Mattison, JTDC barber supervisor.

And while it's the idea of corrections officer and barber instructor Mattison, it's overseen by the office of Judge Evans.

"It's restorative and not punitive," Evans said.

It's here any of the facility's 241 interested residents can apply to learn to cut hair, and maybe, ties with their troubled past.

"It shows you there are more ways to make money, like there's so much more you can do in life than sit around on a corner and stuff," said participant Frankie, 17.

Frankie, a former Bridgeport resident who's been housed there two years while awaiting adjudication of his case, is among the first class of students.

The barber college will open Sunday. It will have eight students who will meet four times a week after they finish their regular classes.

Organizers say this certified barber training is rigorous. Participants are required to complete 1,500 hours of class time to receive an Illinois barber license.

"I'm really to give them everything I learned, everything I got," said Lucas Gunby, JTDC barber instructor.

Hours earned at the JTDC count at a traditional barber school, like the newly opened Legacy Barber School owned by a recently exonerated Juan Rivera.

I'm here to show them anything is possible," he said.

"For me it's like a fresh start, and do something different, like I can help other people out doing it," said Damarco, 18.

Rivera is a $20 million man, receiving the money in a settlement for the 20 years he spent in prison before DNA evidence cleared him. Rivera invited ABC 7 Eyewitness News to his unassuming three-bedroom bungalow-style home in Rogers Park in February where he lived with his fiancee and two kids, and he opened up about what he's been doing with his life and his money.

Rivera was convicted for the rape and murder of 11-year-old Holly Staker in 1992, convicted three times despite his claims of a coerced confession and despite DNA evidence pointing to someone else. An appellate court later freed him, he sued and in 2014 won a $20 million settlement.

On Jan. 6, 2012, Rivera walked out of prison a free man. But since that moment, he will tell you his life has been anything but easy.
"I've been out a little over five years and I still cannot go out in public, like in a big crowd. I get nervous, I start sweating, I get into panic attacks, so it's still a process. I still get death threats and... people are very ignorant and approach me," Rivera said. "I didn't earn what I was given. This was given to me by my pain and suffering."

Now that he's out and $20 million richer, how does he go about life?

"When you have never had such a quantity of money, I mean, growing up to have rice and meat was a luxury. So now that I'm capable of having that, I don't let it get to my head. I try to be as simple as I possibly can," he said.

A team of advisors help Rivera manage his finances, and he is still close to one person who got to know him well while he was in prison: Mattison, a correctional officer there.

"He had the right texture of hair, that's how it all started off, and he was working in the kitchen. I asked him if he wanted to come and let me cut his hair. I wanted to show the new students I had how to cut his hair," Mattison said.
"I just saw the passion he that he had in giving back. I figured, you know, I can do that," Rivera said.

So with part of the settlement money, Rivera gave Mattison $300,000 and together they started Legacy Barber College on Chicago's South Side.

The state-of-the-art facility has conference rooms, a lounge, a store where students can learn to sell products, and every student will have their own station and tablet computer.

"How many people come to the South Side, to the ghetto, to give less fortunate individuals an opportunity? Whether they have committed crimes or not, I felt that this was the perfect opportunity to show that we can give back," Rivera said.

For more information visit legacybarbercollege.com.

Related Topics:
societywrongful convictionlawsuithairnon-profitjuvenile crimeChicagoNear West Side
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