From prison to barbershop: GBCI barber school helps turn Barber Rich's life around

OSHKOSH, Wis. (WBAY) From prison to barbershop.

An Omro man is making a successful new life for himself after spending a decade behind bars.

The former inmate reached out to us after a series of Target 2 reports about area prisons, saying his incarceration changed his life.

Barber Rich's new life started in a prison school.

A small shop on Main Street in Oshkosh is a second home for the man everyone around knows as Barber Rich.

Between a steady stream of customers and non-stop phone calls, his barbershop business is booming.

"I get doctors, cops, firefighters, priests, thugs, drug dealers... it don't matter who you are," says Rich Mitchell. "I got you. I can relate to everybody."

His new life and business is almost as he'd dreamed it, looking through barbershop books every night inside his roughly six foot by 10 foot cell at Green Bay Correctional.

"I'd write down everything and see how much it would amount to. You always envision that day. Man I can't wait to have a barber shop," says Rich. "It's all you got in prison is a thought."

While serving the first half of his nearly 10 years at GBCI for an armed robbery, Rich says he was a troublemaker.

"I did nothing but catch batteries, fighting, disrespect to staff," adding that he never injured staff. "That's just the life I wanted to live while I was incarcerated."

Then he asked for a haircut at the prison barbershop.

Instead, a teacher suggested he join GBCI's Barber and Cosmetology Program.

"They had a staff in there that was almost like a father-figure to every adult man in prison," he recalls.

Three years later, in 2010, Rich earned his certification.

But it wasn't until his second prison stint, when his mom died, that Rich decided on a new attitude and a new life.

"I'm glad I went through that chapter in my life, because it made me who I am today. Now I love everybody."

Now married with one child and another on the way, Rich is focused on giving back. He offers free cuts to veterans, kids and single moms, feeds the homeless and holds fundraisers for those in need.

"I was so used to taking from people, but it feels so much better to give back than to receive, because just to receive the gratitude I get from people, that's a lot. I love it."

For the first time in his life, Rich says everything feels right.

He hopes others can find inspiration and hope from their past, just as he did.

"Life if beautiful. I don't take (a) day for granted."