Local group fights to end cycle of going back to jail

North Charleston, S.C.—Across the country, more than half of the people who go to jail will end up back behind bars. A National study shows nearly 67% of people released from prison will end up back in jail within 3 years. That number increases to 75% after 5 years. A local organization called the Turning Leaf Project is trying to cut those numbers in half.

On Monday March 6th, Turning Leaf hosted an open house for their new facility in North Charleston. Last year, South Carolina provided a former state prison facility on Leeds Avenue to Turning Leaf. Some of the programs biggest supporters were there for the event—City of Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen, Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon, Federal Judge Richard Gergel, as well as many other city and county leaders.

Before the open house, we spoke to one of the graduates of the program—Chris Cherry. He said Turning Leaf changed his life. He said, without the organization, “I’d be hopeless.” Now, Cherry has a job working for a concrete company and lives a life that he says his kids can be proud.

Program Director Amy Barch has a profound passion for ending the prison re-entry cycle. She told News 2 about how she started the program from the ground up, waiting tables in the beginning to make money to fulfil her goal.

Staff members work with men who are at a high risk to end up back in jail. They spend hours, weeks, days and months with these men in order to equip them with the necessary skills to change the way they react to various circumstances.

Barch says they have proof their methods are keeping men here in the Lowcountry from going back to jail. She said over the last 8-9 months, they have worked with 31 guys and roughly 70% of them have stayed in the program and out of prison.

Turning Leaf is funded in part by the City of Charleston and Charleston County. They also receive grant money. Part of that money goes towards paying the men enrolled. One of the main things participants need when they come to Turning Leaf is a form of income. Turning Leaf pays them using a point system. They receive a stipend based on the number of program goals they achieve that week. Once the men graduate, the organization helps set them up with a job.

CLICK HERE to donate to the Turning Leaf Project.

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