My clients laugh when I tell them that I worked in the prisons before doing nails. It’s quite a topic of conversation,” says Tara Andrews, a nail tech at Nail-lissa’s Nail Boutique in Somerville, N.J., who is taking a temporary break from her 10-year career in the corrections field to devote more time to her daughters.

Originally Andrews started college with the intention of becoming a criminal lawyer. “My first semester, I took a criminology course as an elective and was hooked right away. I changed my major after the first semester to criminal justice,” she recalls. After an internship at a juvenile jail in Skillman, N.J., she took a job as a corrections officer at the Beaufort County Detention Center in South Carolina, working the midnight shift. “Beaufort County encompasses the city of Beaufort, a military town, and Hilton Head, a huge tourist destination. Both brought in their share of interesting inmates on that shift — some requiring great discretion,” she says.

She later moved back to New Jersey and worked in probation — an area she didn’t take to — until she landed a job as a classification officer at Northern State Prison in Newark, which is home to 3,500 inmates. “A classification officer handles every facet of inmate life from intake to release. The inmate doesn’t make a move without it going through Classification first,” she says. She also worked for a time at New Jersey State Prison in Trenton, home to Jesse Timmendequas, the murderer of Megan Kanka, whose family is responsible for the creation of Megan’s Law.

“The most difficult part of corrections, I think, was dealing with the family members of the inmates. I hated when family members would take on their loved one’s incarceration as if it were their own,” she says. “It was also difficult seeing the injustice of the criminal justice system with regards to sentencing and releases. There are times — very few — when things aren’t entered right in the system and sentences are calculated incorrectly. It was rewarding when you could truly help someone out.”


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