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TURBEVILLE, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina prison unit where older men with lengthier sentences mentor young adults preparing to reenter society is giving officials hope that a different approach to living conditions will reduce violence behind bars.The special housing facility known as a Community Opportunity Restoration Enhancement (C.O.R.E.) unit emphasizes an unorthodox method of prisoner reform called “restorative justice” that prioritizes open communication and self-correction through group engagement and one-on-...
TURBEVILLE, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina prison unit where older men with lengthier sentences mentor young adults preparing to reenter society is giving officials hope that a different approach to living conditions will reduce violence behind bars.
The special housing facility known as a Community Opportunity Restoration Enhancement (C.O.R.E.) unit emphasizes an unorthodox method of prisoner reform called “restorative justice” that prioritizes open communication and self-correction through group engagement and one-on-one meetings.
That atmosphere resulted in fewer violent incidents, according to a study of the units inside two state detention centers by the Vera Institute of Justice. Even more, participants who inhabit the unit that features walls covered in colorful murals and natural light commended the new initiative for allowing greater freedom in personalizing their spaces and developing trusting relationships alongside correctional officers.
“These guys need to be able to let loose and express themselves and their emotions,” said Matt, a mentor who cuts hair at a wing that includes two seats and a barber pole. “It gives them the opportunity to be who they really are, instead of this tough guy mentality that you have to put on when you’re in prison.”
Matt is one of five mentors currently living alongside 30 mentees inside one such special housing unit at Turbeville Correctional Institution, a medium-security state prison located in central South Carolina. The Associated Press agreed to publish only his first name under a South Carolina Department of Corrections policy seeking to shield victims.
The unit looks different from most. Participants wearing blue polo shirts and khakis can spend as many as 15 hours daily outside their cells. Personal rooms receive sunlight and can be decorated with photographs.
Bright artwork completed by participants lines the floors and walls. Painted logos for professional and collegiate athletic teams appear outside many doors. Murals depict influential figures and highlight phrases like “EMPOWER BLACK MEN.”
The men access utilities not typically shared by prisoners. Laundry machines mean clothes are washed more frequently. A mini fridge provides the opportunity to store water and brings what one mentor described as “hope for freedom.” A kitchen facilitates sharing food in a space credited for giving dignity and curbing theft.
The abnormalities also extend to discipline. Lower-level offenses like disorderly conduct and contraband possession might be met with writing assignments related to the wrongdoing, public apologies to harmed individuals or additional chores without pay.
Research indicates people in such settings are less likely to engage in violence. During the initiative’s first year, Vera’s study reported six violent convictions within a group of 100 participants randomly assigned to the unit, compared to 15 among 100 applicants randomly left in the general prison population.
When applying statistical analysis, the study estimated a 73% decrease in the odds of violent convictions inside the special units.
Overall misconduct charges were comparable between the treatment and control groups. Selma Djokovic, the associate director of research at Vera, suggested incidents inside the unit are not reaching levels “where people have to resort to violence.”
“People are still getting in trouble because people are people. Young adults are young adults. But violence is down,” Djokovic said at a panel last month.
The initiative is a step in the right direction, said Madalyn Wasilczuk, a University of South Carolina law professor who has researched detention center deaths.
Wasilczuk, who was not involved with the study, said suicide is among other forms of violence that also need addressing. State and federal prisons in South Carolina had the sixth highest suicide rate from 2015-2019, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
“The conditions of our prisons help produce violence,” she told The Associated Press. “It’s not a surprise to me that treating people more humanely and better would reduce violence.”
U.S. Department of Justice Assistant Attorney General Amy Solomon told panel members that the “restorative justice” model is replicable. Five units existed across Connecticut, South Carolina and Massachusetts at the time of the study. Others can now be found in Colorado and North Dakota.
Solomon told AP that expansion is partially a matter of “political will” and said grants exist to help correctional institutions “test the waters.” One funds technical assistance and staff to assist with implementing the initiative. Another backs research on the relationship between the climates and interactions inside prisons.
“You are showing everyone around the country what’s possible in this prison, and in prisons and jails and other facilities around the country,” Solomon told the panel last month.
But officials acknowledged barriers to expansion. Djokovic said many personnel from Vera are needed to facilitate the effort and prisons must also alter staffing structures.
Khalil, a 52-year-old man who recently joined the initiative 33 years into a life sentence, said restorative justice would be best spread throughout prisons because it “brings out the potential in people.” But he found that objective “unrealistic” now given the number of necessary trainings.
For Khalil, prison had been a place with people “hopeless” and “on edge.” But he said these changes have furthered rehabilitation. As a mentor leading lessons around victim impact, Khalil guides mentees through processes of remorse and empathy.
“I asked God to forgive me for what I did. But that has nothing to do with the impact on another human being and the lives I’ve hurt,” Khalil said. “I teach the youth that we’re obligated to do something.”
The youth focus is key because the 18- to 25-year-old population historically has the highest levels of recidivism, said Nikeya M. Chavous, who oversees young offender parole and reentry services in South Carolina. She said the initiative seeks to instill coping and self-management skills they are often missing due to “egregious” trauma and lagging support.
Other findings could help reverse staffing shortage trends. Special unit employees reported less stress and professional growth at high levels that Solomon called “unheard of.” Officials said the initiative could improve retention by making the units a place where correctional officers want to work.
“As opposed to standing around and watching, they’ll be part of correcting,” South Carolina Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling told AP. “The goal is for them to make sure people reenter society safely.”
James Pollard is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
That was the question asked by those involved in a new initiative called ‘Restoring Promise’ have been asking.“My first time coming to Turbeville [Correctional Institution], I got in a fight on my second day” said one inmate.To work on reducing violence at the Turbeville prison, South Carolina Department of Corrections teamed up with other organizations to create the ‘Restoring Promise’ initiative.It involves moving prisoners from general population to an improved unit where they parti...
That was the question asked by those involved in a new initiative called ‘Restoring Promise’ have been asking.
“My first time coming to Turbeville [Correctional Institution], I got in a fight on my second day” said one inmate.
To work on reducing violence at the Turbeville prison, South Carolina Department of Corrections teamed up with other organizations to create the ‘Restoring Promise’ initiative.
It involves moving prisoners from general population to an improved unit where they participate in a mentorship program.
“It’s an approach that people take and make what they want what they will. They are constantly learning from each other,” said Selma Djokovic, research director for Restoring Promise.
“Changing any culture is tough, but changing prison culture can be difficult,” said Bryan Stirling, South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) director. “This is having a major impact on prison culture. Why is that?”
Stirling says that the new unit has resulted in less violence and a safer environment not only for those who live in the prison, but also for those who work there.
“I think it’s helped retain staff. Staff want to do this,” said the SCDC director. “The warden who was here said he stayed in the career for a little longer because he felt like he was helping folks who were incarcerated.”
The new unit provides inmates with new freedoms such as a room to themselves and also new responsibilities. One inmate with a life sentence was able to become a mentor through the Restoring Promise initiative.
“To know that I was going to go from general population to a space where I can be an asset to fellow incarcerated people was a good feeling. It’s been a good feeling ever since,” the mentor said.
As a mentor, he says he helps teach lessons he has learned in prison to younger inmates who have a chance of being released.
“I’m not so concerned about education,” the inmate said. “It’s important to but brothers need to get somewhere in their hearts, learn empathy and cry.”
One young inmate who is part of the Restoring Promise unit says he continually got in trouble in prison when he first arrived.
“I just got tired of doing the same thing,” the young man recalled. “What’s the outcome of me continuing to fight? I go to lockup and I come back.”
Now, the mentee hopes to put the lessons he has learned from his mentors to practice when he is released from prison later this year.
“Life is all about what you make it,” the mentee said. “I’m trying to make the best out of it because I missed a lot.”
Director Stirling says the state department of corrections hopes to translate the success of the ‘Restoring Promise’ initiative to more prisons and hopes to open a similar unit in the future in a women’s prison.
by JOHNNY WEEKSjweeks.email@example.comAll across Clarendon County, farmlands can be found on almost every road outside of the many towns. Some of these have been passed down over the years from generation to generation as a way of life for them and their families. This holds true on the Cannon family farm in Turbeville. Jeremy Cannon and his wife Lacie, have been the driving force behind Cannon Ag. Products for many years, which is the store front that they use to sell their produce to ...
by JOHNNY WEEKS
All across Clarendon County, farmlands can be found on almost every road outside of the many towns. Some of these have been passed down over the years from generation to generation as a way of life for them and their families. This holds true on the Cannon family farm in Turbeville. Jeremy Cannon and his wife Lacie, have been the driving force behind Cannon Ag. Products for many years, which is the store front that they use to sell their produce to the public. It is located at 1457 Olanta Highway just outside of the city limits of Turbeville.
Jeremy Cannon is the fourth generation of Cannon farmers who have worked the same farmland to continue the time honored tradition of planting and harvesting crops to sell. His parents, Nebo and Yvonne Cannon, are also active and doing their part in keeping the business running smoothly. The current farmland was purchased and developed into their family business in the 60's.
The Cannon farming business specializes in growing a long list of vegetables and produce. The list of vegetables includes tomatoes, butter beans, peas, corn, peanuts, peppers, eggplants, squash, zucchini, cantaloupes, cucumbers, and okra.
They also grow and sell fruit, such as cantaloupes, blueberries, strawberries, peaches, plums, and more. Jeremy added that all of their products are available throughout the calendar year according to the season that they are grown. Beans are generally ready for harvesting in July of each year.
Lacie says that she gets great satisfaction from being a part of a farming family.
“I feel like we play an important role in the community by growing and selling our fruits and vegetables;” said Lacie. “I love to see familiar faces as well as new ones to stop by and see what we have to offer.”
Jeremy is proud of the work he and his family do on the farm and in the warehouse. He said that the bean harvesting will start in the next few days, and he looks to employ many people in the area to pick beans. It is described as a long and tedious process that takes days to complete.
“Growing produce to sell to neighbors and friends is what its all about for me,” said Jeremy. “People I consider to be friends will stop by and talk for a bit while shopping. They leave happy and then tell others about us. Word of Mouth is a great form of advertising, and helps us to stay in business.”
Jeremy added that his future goals are to create a Halloween themed area on the farm. He wants to develop a corn maze and grow pumpkins to enhance the future event.
After being closed for two years, Turbeville Children's Home has reopened its doors under new ownership.The home has been in existence in Turbeville since 1949 and was owned for 65 years by the Sout...
After being closed for two years, Turbeville Children's Home has reopened its doors under new ownership.
The home has been in existence in Turbeville since 1949 and was owned for 65 years by the South Carolina Free Will Baptist State Association. In February 2014, the association voted to close the home because it was not being able to operate at full capacity with the flow of income and expenses, according to a statement made on the home's former website.
In October 2015, the home was purchased by the International Pentecostal Holiness Church. The facility is a division of Falcon Children's Home and Family Services, a private nonprofit institution that also operates a children's home in Falcon, North Carolina.
The children's home officially reopened on March 1, and the demand for it was immediately felt, said Mike Dillard, the new director of the facility.
"A week before we opened, we received a call from the South Carolina Department of Social Services inquiring if we could house eight children," Dillard said.
The home has a maximum capacity to house 36 children, and 26 are residing there. The children, ranging in age from seven to 17, came through DSS and may have a history of either abuse or neglect, Dillard said. The facility can legally accommodate children under 21 years old.
The length of stay at the home varies, based on each child’s case, he said.
“It could be a year, for some it could be several years, for others several weeks,” he said. “The ultimate goal is reunification with their families.”
Dillard said the facility includes three dormitories, with an employee, or “house parent,” who stays at each facility 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The house parents work one week and take a week respite, switching out with another house parent.
House parents, Dillard said, not only cater to a child’s physical needs, but their also emotional needs.
“We want to develop a sense of family here,” he said. “I know we can’t replace their real family, but we want them to feel as part of a family as much as possible.”
Bridget Evans, a house parent, said it is a demanding job but also extremely rewarding.
“We are ‘mamas’ to them,” she said. “We treat them as our own children. Many of them at first may be scared or angry, but they are seeking care and happy to be here.”
Evans said she attempts to build a positive relationship with the children in her care.
“It’s about building a certain level of trust and letting them know that we’re here to help them, not to hurt them,” she said.
She said many times the children come from homes with little or no structure, and that may be a challenge, adjusting to a place where structure is required.
“The most rewarding thing is seeing a smile I didn’t see before,” she said. “Seeing them start to converse and blend in with the group is also great.”
Dillard said the home also houses abused or neglected teenage mothers and their babies through a special program.
Children all have a daily schedule they have to follow and will be attending local schools in the fall, he said. During the summer, the facility hires two seasonal workers who provide daily recreational activities.
Children take field trips and enjoy activities at the Sumter Family YMCA.
“We have been very fortunate to have the partnership with the Sumter Family YMCA and them allowing us to use their facilities for our children,” Dillard said. “We’ve also been blessed by the generosity of other churches, businesses and individuals who have assisted us.”
The home is primarily funded through DSS and supported by the International Pentecostal Holiness Church.
Monetary donations should be designated to “Turbeville Children’s Home” and sent to P.O. Box 229, Turbeville, SC 29162.
Airport coach Kirk Burnett learned many things being around Joe Turbeville, but two things he remembered most were his leadership abilities and work ethic.Those two characteristics helped Turbeville...
Airport coach Kirk Burnett learned many things being around Joe Turbeville, but two things he remembered most were his leadership abilities and work ethic.
Those two characteristics helped Turbeville become one of the winningest high school football coaches in South Carolina.
Turbeville, 74, died Monday at Lexington Medical Center after a battle with lymphoma.
"He just had such a constant work ethic," said Burnett, who got his first coaching job under Turbeville at Irmo from 1989-93. "It didn’t matter how bad or how well you did on Friday. He was back in his office by sunrise on Saturday. And no matter how many titles he had won, everything was new and fresh.
"He was a great leader. He let his coaches coach, but you knew who the head man was. And he was just so highly respected. There was never a black mark on him whether he was a coach or athletic director."
Turbeville coached 28 seasons at Winnsboro, Spring Valley and Irmo and appeared in nine state championship games, winning five of them. He went 239-99 during his coaching tenure and was part of the inaugural class of the South Carolina Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2014.
Turbeville was an assistant and head coach in the Shrine Bowl and North-South All-Star football games and also was inducted into the SC Athletic Administrators Association in 2011.
Turbeville won championships in three different decades. He won his first state title at Winnsboro in 1968 and final one at Irmo in 1980.
Turbeville led Spring Valley to three straight titles from 1973-75. After leaving Spring Valley in 1978, he landed at Irmo and led the Yellow Jackets to three state championship appearances.
Turbeville’s 1980 championship team was the last true Class 4A championship squad before the classification split into two divisions the following year.
Former Batesburg-Leesville and Spring Valley coach Jerry Brown, who played and coached for Turbeville, said his former coach’s ability to adapt was a key to his success.
"He was always on the cutting edge. He was ahead of his time, in other words, as far as offensively and organization-wise," Brown told The State in 2014. "He was always a student of the game and was always willing to try, look at different things and change, whereas a lot of coaches like their system more than they like the players.
"He adjusted his system to the players. He was always adapting and changing the offense and other aspects."
Turbeville, a Mullins native, deflected his credit back to his players.
"The only secret I had about being a good coach was the better players you have, the better coach you are," he said during an interview in 2014. "That was it. I’ve never heard of anybody winning a state championship with bad players. We tried to do some things to get them a little stronger and tougher and motivate them, but back then we had good players."
Burnett said he still uses things he learned from Turbeville with his teams at Airport. He also appreciated when Turbeville would stop by practice or come to a game, something he did regularly with his former coaches and players when he retired from coaching in the mid-1990s.
Before getting into coaching, Turbeville was a standout offensive guard at The Citadel from 1960-62. He was part of the Bulldogs’ teams that won the Tangerine Bowl and first Southern Conference championship.
Turbeville was inducted into The Citadel Sports Hall of Fame in 2013.
Service details are pending.
This story was originally published January 26, 2016, 11:59 AM.