Inmates graduate from jail program, promise to change

Published: Jun. 25, 2013 at 8:10 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 26, 2013 at 1:26 AM EDT
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NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - It was not a typical graduation ceremony Tuesday morning at the Charleston County Jail.

The graduates wore stripes instead of caps and gowns.

They are 13 inmates who are success stories of the Turning Leaf Project.

"I've made a lot of bad choices in my life and one thing about this program, it teaches us to make better decisions," said inmate Lewis Thompson, who graduated from the program in February.

It's bad decisions that got these men jailed in the first place.

The Turning Leaf Project teaches offenders to take responsibility for their crimes.

"The program revolves around themes of we should do better. Why don't we want to harm people and then how can we make better choices," said program founder Amy Barch.

It's an intense program, 60 hours a week for ten weeks.

It includes writing essays and role playing.

The project also is about making goals and changing the inmates' way of thinking.

"If you think negative about yourself all the time, when I get out I have no choice but to go around bad people, go around the drugs. If you keep putting that in your head, that's what you're gonna turn to," said inmate Dustin Carr, who graduated today.

Now, 13 inmates are reaping the benefits of their hard work, earning certificates for completing the turning leaf project.

"it's never about the certificates. It's really about the men that they want to become, the men they know they can become," Barch explained.

These men have to prove they can take what they learned in the Turning Leaf Project into the real world when they're released.

Barch says only ten percent of the graduates from the program re-offend and wind up back in jail.

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