From behind bars to business owner: Albuquerque man shares his story


ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) – A New Mexico man sentenced to ten years in prison now owns and runs his own business. He shares the story of how he changed his life.

Thomas Joseph Baca – also known as TJ – owns Mister Men’s Salon LLC in Albuquerque – but his road to success has not always been easy. He grew up in California, but when he continued to get into trouble as a teenager, his family moved to New Mexico. He explains: “My parents thought it was a good idea to bring me back to our natural roots, which is Albuquerque, where they come from.

But Baca continued to break the law and paid the price. “I just really caught up with the wrong crowd by being part of the wrong crowd. This led me to a 10 year prison sentence.

Baca doesn’t run away from his past – he embraces it. “All of this is common knowledge. I was charged with aggravated assault, armed robbery and kidnapping. You know, I’ve been dealing drugs here, weed and everything. I went to the Department of Corrections and did 1,827 days of it – 10 years, which is, I believe, five years and eight months,” he said.

Baca’s time in prison was long and complicated, but at the end of his sentence, he spent a lot of time doing what he was good at: cutting his hair. He shared, “They created a special job for me called staff hairdresser that was outside the Santa Fe jail.

Baca says that when he got out of prison, he didn’t know how to start his career. “I knew I was very good at cutting hair. I had no idea it would be a profession or even worth the money.

Someone told him about the state Department of Vocational Rehabilitation – or DVR. This is a state and federally funded program to help people with disabilities find employment.

Baca shares, “Getting out of jail is a handicap, even if you like watching it we’re not, and it’s not the end of the world. It is in fact the beginning of a new beginning. So, that being said, if you get out of jail DVR is a disability, you will qualify for DVR.

Baca graduated from the program in 2020, which helped him go to school and get his barber license. “I saw what was around me. Prison actually honed my dedication even to a higher level. So I just said, you know what, I’m going to open a store.

Now Baca runs a successful barber shop. But he does more than cut his hair. He encourages others in trouble with the law to seek help from programs like DVR to find their own path to a better life. “I don’t want them washing up and ruining their lives. I want them to understand that their life is worth more and there is more to it and that you yourself can be the best person you can be for yourself,” Baca said.

There are over 20 DVR locations statewide. You can find more information about all locations online.


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