- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 26, 2015

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) - Customers wait their turn for James Proctor at Southside Barber Shop.

Clippers buzz in Proctor’s right hand as he shaves and styles, sometimes stopping to eye his work or clean his tools.

“I love the idea that somebody might wake up one morning and say, ‘Man, I look bad. I’m gonna get a haircut.’ They get out of my chair - they feel on top of the world. They look good,” Proctor said.

Work also helps Proctor avoid the pitfalls of his past.

Proctor served 13 years for armed robbery. He was released just days before his 36th birthday on Sept. 1, 2011.

“My granddad, he was lobbying for me, in every barbershop you could imagine. And all of them said they didn’t have room for me, except D.J.,” Proctor said.

D.J. is Southside Barber Shop owner Daniel Jones. He took over the barbershop after the death of his father, the Rev. Peter Jones, in 2004.

The late owner and patriarch’s portrait hangs near the entrance. There also is a plaque in the shop that reminds people of his work to better others’ lives. The Rev. Peter Jones hired and helped dozens of ex-prisoners earn their barber’s licenses.

“No one would give them a chance. I gave them a chance,” he told the Herald-Journal in 1996.

Daniel Jones wants to continue his father’s legacy.

“Almost 200 barbers have come through Southside,” Daniel Jones said.

Proctor is the latest. He received his barber apprentice license earlier this month.

The journey, Jones said, began three years ago.

At the time, Jones was having difficulty finding people who wanted to work with him because of his own past.

Jones said he enlisted in the Army after college and returned home to Spartanburg a “disgrace” to his father after he was discharged for drug use in 1987.

Daniel Jones found solace from his problems in alcohol. Cocaine seemed a “cure all,” and he developed a crack cocaine addiction.

“It was like I had my foot in Hell and a foot out,” Jones said.

He said he flirted with death. He became an “empty shell.” The years became a blur.

His father’s support never wavered despite relapses. The Rev. Peter Jones gave his own son chances.

“He was an extraordinary man. He was just an advocate for people,” Jones said of his father.

Daniel Jones said he’s instructed about 15 barber students. Ten, he said, were ex-offenders.

Jones said he hopes those whom he gives a chance are able to clean up their lives and steer clear of prison.

An estimated two-thirds of 405,000 prisoners released in 2005 in 30 states were arrested for a new crime within three years of release from prison, according to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. South Carolina was among the 30 states included in the sample. According to the same report, 77 percent were arrested within five years.

Statistics from the S.C. Department of Corrections (DOC) show declining recidivism rates of inmates. About 12 percent of inmates released from the state DOC returned within a year in 2006, compared with 9.5 percent in 2011. Forty-two percent returned within five years of their release in 2006, compared with 37 percent in 2009.

It took Proctor 1,920 hours to earn his license. He worked at a fast food restaurant as his clientele grew.

There was no shortage of clients Friday. Proctor said two people were waiting when he arrived at the shop at 8 a.m. He worked into the afternoon as people drifted in and out of the shop, and he answered his cellphone.

Proctor said several clients are high school students.

“I tell them where I came from to where I’m at now,” he said.

Proctor said he does not lie or “sugarcoat” his past.

He said he tells them about his descent into drug addiction, leading up to a crime for which he spent most of his youth in prison. During his incarceration, he worked in a prison barbershop and said he earned “good time.”

Proctor said a criminal record like his makes it difficult to find a job. He said working as a barber has made him more financially stable - he’s able to afford a home and transportation. He also said he has a respectable career providing a service to the community.

Proctor started cutting hair at 12.

“I saw a guy in my neighborhood cutting some hair on a porch, and it just amazed me to see what he could do with a pair of clippers,” Proctor said.

Proctor asked for his own pair for Christmas.

“I know my little cousins rue the day I got those clippers ‘cause I started practicing,” he said.

After school on Fridays, he “set up shop” on his Spartanburg porch. He charged $2 per cut. “That was money to get in the game and to go to Krispy Kreme afterward,” he said.

Proctor planned to train under the Rev. Peter Jones, but dropped out of school at 17.

“That’s when everything started going south for me,” he said. “I didn’t see it at the time. I thought I was living, but I really wasn’t.”

Proctor was in prison when his great grandmother died.

Her name, Alma, is tattooed on his right hand. He said she’s part of every haircut, and he credits her for instilling the values in him that propel him forward.

Proctor said Jones opened doors for him.

___

Information from: Herald-Journal, https://www.goupstate.com/


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