Reducing Recidivism (NPR’s South Carolina Business Review)

According to recent statistics, 67% of formerly incarcerated men are re-arrested within three years. Our next guest’s organization however, has found a way to reduce that number significantly. Mike Switzer interviews Leah Rhyne, director of marketing and communications at Turning Leaf, a Charleston nonprofit expanding soon to Columbia, SC.

Listen here.

Police Killed My Dad When I Was 8. Next Came the Rage. (The Marshall Project)

When I hear household names like George FloydWalter Scott and Alton Sterling, I don’t land on the grisly videos of their killings or the fates of the police officers who ended their lives.

I think about their children.

Police murdered my father three decades ago, when I was 8. As his son, I know firsthand how losing a parent this way can derail a family for generations. I can still see these deaths through the eyes of the youngest victims.

Keep reading this essay by Turning Leaf Implementation Specialist Aulzue “Blue” Fields.

Best Advice by Amy Barch (Charleston Regional Business Journal)

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received is: “focus on what you can control.” It’s humbling to recognize how much happens in life that I have no control of. Instead of wanting things to be different – the way I want them to be, the way I expect them to be – I try to let go and accept things as they are. This practice helps me to not get overly angry and anxious by circumstances I can’t influence, like other people and external events. It’s also a powerful reminder that my actions are fully in my own control. By staying focused on my daily choices, I feel more grounded and am an all-around happier person. 

Read full article

Hicks: Turning Leaf is expanding, and that’s good news for everyone in SC (Post & Courier)

Amy Barch didn’t set out to become the director of a nonprofit, but she’s really good at it.

In fact, Barch just might change the world.

Six years ago, she opened the Turning Leaf Project with the wildly ambitious goal of keeping violent felons from returning to a life of crime after prison. And that’s important. Law enforcement officials will tell you that recidivism is one of the country’s biggest problems.

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Turning Leaf Founder Published in Stanford Social Innovation Review

 “Change is really hard, even under the best circumstances. People leaving prison attempt to change their whole lives with the cards stacked against them.”

So writes Turning Leaf Founder and Executive Director Amy Barch in an article published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) on July 7, 2021. The article, A Better Way to Keep People from Going Back to Prison, takes a look at what works at Turning Leaf and other re-entry organizations around the country with particular focus on the different ways Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is incorporated into the most successful programs.

While this is Barch’s first professional publication, it is by no means the first time she’s written about the challenges of re-entry. Since entering the field of prison reform in her early 20s, she’s spent countless hours researching and writing about the topic. The bespoke curriculum at Turning Leaf, which uses 25 life skills like “Setting Boundaries” and “Asking for Help,” was created by Barch. She has also written extensively about the early successes (and failures) of Turning Leaf at her blog.

“It’s an honor to be published,” says Barch. “It’s a validation of all the hard work we’ve done at Turning Leaf. When you launch a nonprofit with a clinical component, you have to be willing to change and grow. We’ve done that, and now that we’re putting in the work to prove our program is able to replicate and scale, it’s wonderful to have our accomplishments acknowledged by a journal like SSIR.”

Read full article at SSIR

Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Charleston Visits Turning Leaf

We were honored to host a group from Leadership Charleston for a tour of Turning Leaf last week. Leadership Charleston is a yearlong program that engages participants in experiences that help them become better community leaders. The Chamber has been running this program for over 45 years – offering an intensive and up-close look at the most challenging issues and opportunities facing our region. The group spends one of their day-long sessions focused on the criminal justice system.

With two-thirds of people re-arrested within three years of release, prison reentry is a huge challenge, not just for Charleston, but for all cities across the country. That’s why we were thrilled that the group spent two hours of their day with us, to learn about how we’re equipping people with the skills to succeed after prison and the role that organizations like Turning Leaf have in the widespread effort to end mass incarceration. Solving the issue of recidivism is an important part of reforming our criminal justice system. 

“These are the people who will go on to hold prominent positions in our community,” said Amy Barch, Turning Leaf’s Founder and Executive Director. “They’ll be making decisions that impact policy and economics for years to come. To be able to show them exactly what we’re doing here is invaluable.”

Amy also happens to be a Leadership Charleston alumnus. She was in the process of starting Turning Leaf as she was finishing the program in 2012. At that time, Leadership Charleston’s criminal justice day didn’t include a spotlight on prison reentry.

With students acting as tour guides, the 45 professionals spent approximately 90 minutes learning about five key pieces of the Turning Leaf program, including:

  • Turning Leaf’s history, from its humble beginnings at the Charleston County Jail to its current home on Leeds Avenue with eight full time staff;
  • The importance of role plays when practicing the 25 social skills taught to each Turning Leaf student; 
  • How crucial it is for a reentry program to run a social enterprise with a specific purpose, as well as compassion and professionalism;
  • A Turning Leaf graduate testimonial; and
  • Turning Leaf’s Founder and Executive Director’s vision for a proven reentry program that can be replicated across South Carolina, and eventually the country.

Collaboration between like-minded community organizations is key to solving complex, systemic issues. We are always excited to share our program with people interested in changing the world for the better.

Interested in scheduling a tour of the facility for your professional group? Contact Director of Marketing and Communication, Leah Rhyne, at lrhyne@turningleafproject.com.