Suspect in deadly Citadel Mall shooting once enrolled in program that helps criminals adjust in society

Suspect in deadly Citadel Mall shooting once enrolled in program that helps criminals adjust in soci

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A man accused of killing a woman in the parking lot of Citadel Mall was once enrolled in a program designed to help criminals be successful on the outside.

Cary Stephens is being held without bond at the Charleston County Jail in connection with the Feb 26 shooting death of Deja Dantley.

Stephens was enrolled in the Turning Leaf project in 2014. Officials with the Turning Leaf project say it has an excellent track record.

The folks who run the program say only 19 percent of their graduates wind up being re-arrested

In 2014, Cary Stephens told us how Turning Leaf had made a difference in his life.

“I was headed toward the path of destruction,” then 23-year old Stephens said during an interview.

Turning Leaf officials say it’s impossible to save every single person who enrolls in the program.

Alzue “Blue” Fields is a success story.

Fields, a peer specialist at Turning Leaf spent 17 years in prison for homicide by child abuse before joining the program.

Fields says he is proof that the program can work.

“It’s a situation where you have to continue to apply, make choices. It’s not guaranteed that you’re gonna make the best choices. But we equip the guys with tools that can give them a better percentage of being successful,” Fields said Thursday.

As part of the program the participants get classroom training to work on their emotions and problem solving skills.

They also work part-time in a screen printing shop to give them hands on experience, working at a job.

It’s important to point out that in 2014, Cary Stephens was sentenced to join Turning Leaf.

Now men who have been out of jail or prison for up to six months can either be recommended or join the program on their own.

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