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Providing second chances: Turn90 employs formerly incarcerated men

Turn90 is a screen printing business and nonprofit that employs men out of prison. Any revenue earned from shirt sales goes toward hiring and teaching the men.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Turn90 gives a second chance to formerly incarcerated men by hiring them out of prison. It also provides daily cognitive behavioral classes, case management and future job placement.

It's a social enterprise, meaning a business with a social mission. The screen printing company sells merchandise. All revenue from those sales go directly toward Turn90's nonprofit, which covers the cost of hiring, employment and the classes.

"It’s really hard," Jalmol Adair said. "But the help with Turn90…it really boosted everything up and made a lot of things easier."

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Adair started working at Turn90 on June 30. Two days before that, he was getting out of prison for the first time in six years. As soon as he left, Adair started looking for a job.

"I ain’t want nothing to hinder me from being around my kids and I don’t want to do the wrong thing and get sent back to prison, so I was really worried at first," Adair explained.

Then he found Turn90. Now, he works alongside other men like Tyrone Hollins.

Hollins spent five years in prison before getting out in 2021. He said trying to find a job was "discouraging" at first because of his criminal record. 

"You don’t wanna brush off a great worker cuz of something that happened 10, five years ago," Hollins said. "Someone who's done changed so much, so you don’t want to just brush them off. At least give them a chance."

While it can be hard to find employment, Hollins said it's crucial to stay on the right path.

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"A job plays a big factor in it because it keeps people like me, people like us, or people who just used to doing their own thing and not really applying no rules…it keeps them focused on the right track," Hollins said.

That’s the goal, according to executive director Amy Barch.

"When they go to prison it’s not a place where they find any solutions for themselves," Barch said. "So when people get out, if we as a society want people to do better, then we have to offer them something different and something more and I think that’s what Turn90 is about."

Turn90 is coming up on its first year in Columbia. Since it started, it’s hired 56 men out of prison.

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"The fact that we’ve employed that many people since we’ve been here, it really shows us that we’re really just beginning here and I think that we’re gonna have a lot of success in Columbia," Barch shared.

In addition to employment, the Turn90 holds hour cognitive behavioral classes for all employees each day.

For obtaining a GED to conversational skills, the classes cover a range of life skills.

"When people get out of prison, they have every problem thrown at them at the exact same time. They have very limited transportation, they have housing instability, they oftentimes don’t have a network of supportive people that can help them." Barch explained. "There’s just so many things that people are trying to overcome...It’s incredible difficult for any one of us to overcome those single challenges, let alone for someone to try to overcome all of them at the same time.

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In addition to teaching life skills, Adair says the culture at Turn90 provides a supportive environment.

"Instead of patting yourself on the back, I’m getting patted on my back by everybody because they’re surprised and they’re happy for me," he said. "And it feels good. It feels real good."

Hollins agrees.

"All of us help each other out," he said. "We’re really like one big family."

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