CCF’s Economic Mobility Fund Awards $45K to Turn90, Providing Employment Opportunities to Men After Prison

The concept of economic mobility has emerged as a central focus for Coastal Community Foundation, one of the six pillars for a vibrant community, identified by extensive conversations and engagement with people living in coastal South Carolina. Our region is grappling with the economic challenges of ever-increasing costs of living, shifting workforce needs, and escalating demand for housing. These pressures often become too much of a burden for one to bear, leaving countless individuals struggling to make ends meet.  

What we’ve learned is that our communities need stability, something that can be achieved by increasing economic security through access to affordable housing, capital to start or expand a small business, and higher paying jobs. To that end, CCF established the Economic Mobility Fund, a field-of-interest fund to support economic mobility work throughout CCF’s nine-county service area.  

In the fall of 2023, Turn90, an innovative nonprofit dedicated to reshaping lives and communities in South Carolina, was awarded a $45,000 grant from the Economic Mobility Fund. This organization has taken a comprehensive approach to combat the dual challenges of incarceration and limited economic mobility by focusing on men who are at the highest risk of reoffending.  

Through programming that includes cognitive behavioral classes, support services, transitional work experiences, and job placement initiatives, Turn90 not only aims to create meaningful opportunities for success after prison but also to fundamentally alter the trajectory of lives impacted by the cycle of incarceration.  

By investing in formerly incarcerated individuals, Turn90 is at the forefront of fostering lasting change and empowering these men with the tools needed for a second chance at a productive and fulfilling life. 

Two current Turn90 program participants

Understanding Incarceration in South Carolina 

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, South Carolina’s incarceration rate is 678 per 100,000 people, higher than the US national rate which is 583 per 100,000 people. What happens when these individuals are released from prison?  

Data from the ACLU shows 95% of people in state prisons will be released back into communities where many encounter numerous obstacles, including finding employment, securing housing, and accessing government benefits. 

Employment plays a pivotal role in the reentry process for formerly incarcerated individuals. Steady work and a consistent income are not just about economic mobility and stability; they are critical for reducing the likelihood of reoffending. A stable job significantly improves the quality of life and is often seen as a foundational step toward successful reintegration into society.  

The South Carolina State Legislature is facilitating reentry into the workforce for formerly incarcerated individuals through the passage of H3209. This legislation enables the expungement of criminal records for certain offenses. H3209 allows for retroactive expungement of offenses such as simple possession or possession with intent to distribute drugs, removing significant barriers to employment opportunities and opening more doors for individuals seeking to rebuild their lives post-incarceration. 

 

Being the Reason Why: Turn90 Founded in 2014 

Against the backdrop of these challenges, the idea of Turn90 was planted in 2011 when a federal court judge spoke to Amy Barch, Founder and CEO, and told her she was the talk of his courtroom. Amy had been volunteering at a county jail and the judge thought she could be doing more than just volunteering. Barch never planned to start a nonprofit but loved working with people inside and outside of prison. When the judge planted that seed, she just couldn’t shake the idea. Turn90 officially became a nonprofit organization when they earned their 501(c)(3) status in 2014. 

Their efforts are focused on improving access to employment and enhancing the skills necessary for these men to thrive in the workforce. Turn90 also offers a suite of support services designed to address a range of needs, from housing assistance to cognitive behavioral classes, thereby tackling the multifaceted obstacles that hinder successful reintegration.  

“My philosophy around my work has always been to put the men that I work with first,” Barch shared. 

Barch understands that South Carolina skews on the higher side of per capita incarceration, making Turn90’s work in the region that much more important.  

When asked about what it means for Turn90 to exist in South Carolina, Barch shared, “I think in some ways I feel very lucky that I’m doing this work in the South. You can’t be doing better work than working where the need is greatest.” 

To address that need, there are multiple sides to Turn90’s programming. 

“It’s not enough to give somebody the tools to show up in their life in a different way and then not, ourselves, be willing to open doors for them,” Barch said. “On the programming side, we get so caught up in helping somebody change or giving somebody tools to be different themselves that we don’t do the work that we need to actually knock down the barrier on the other side.”  

Turn90 does both.  Through their cognitive behavioral classes they teach resiliency skills, how to respond to setbacks, emotional regulation skills, and more. But they also enact tangible opportunities: jobs screen printing T-shirts and other materials available to the community for purchase. Turn90 also helps place the men in jobs after they leave the program.  

“Giving somebody a job is tangible. That’s something concrete that moves us beyond just being a program for somebody,” explained Barch. “First and foremost, being willing to put our money where our mouth is and hire people on day one when they show up here is the important part.” 

Eric Mitchell, Turn90 program graduate

One program graduate, Eric Mitchell, came to Turn90 when he was released from 10 years in prison.  

“It made a big impact. I’m glad I came here. It’s like a family to me,” Mitchell said.  

He described his experience with Turn90 as “the best thing that has happened” to him since he was released from federal prison. 

The work helps further generational change. Fathers and sons have gone through the program; brothers completed it together. Turn90 graduates also go on to impact their own communities, advocating for and encouraging others to be a part of the program and showing them what is possible beyond incarceration.  

“Those same skills I use when I leave Turn90 and go out into the real world,” said Mitchell. “There are a lot of challenges out there and those skills come in handy.” 

Perhaps most notably, Turn90’s work helps to break down the stigma of what a person out of prison is like, which can help break down barriers to economic mobility by opening more doors for formerly incarcerated people to find employment, assistance, and more.  

Learn more about how you can contribute to Coastal Community Foundation’s Economic Mobility grantmaking.

Related Story

story
April 30, 2024
Jennifer York Awarded 2024 Griffith-Reyburn Lowcountry Artist of the Year
Coastal Community Foundation is proud to announce Jennifer York as the 2024 Griffith-Reyburn Lowcountry Artist of the Year. The award…
Continue Reading Jennifer York Awarded 2024 Griffith-Reyburn Lowcountry Artist of the Year
story
April 21, 2024
Being the Reason Why Art Gets Made
Many fundholders choose to partner with Coastal Community Foundation because they see a need in the community and have a…
Continue Reading Being the Reason Why Art Gets Made