Accused criminals getting second chance with program that gives them college education

Some people accused of misdemeanor crimes were given a choice: incarceration or a college classroom.

Channel 2 Action News was there as some chose college and got their charges dropped because of it. Organizers and students say the program is changing lives.

Channel 2′s Tom Jones was at Atlanta Technical College Thursday, where Fulton County Solicitor General Keith Gammage was giving out hugs and bringing smiles Thursday to the faces of youthful offenders who faced jail time.

He signed the paperwork and told the audience that student Torri Booker now has a clean record.

“Her case is both dismissed and her record restricted,” Gammage said, as Booker flashed a wide grin and said, “Thank you.”

Dismissing Booker’s charge gave her a new lease on life. It also put her on a course to improve her future.

“I can get an education. I can get my records restricted. Yes, it’s for me. I’m going with it,” she said with excitement.

And she doesn’t have to pay any tuition. It’s all thanks to the Ladders program at Atlanta Technical College in Southwest Atlanta.


The school has partnered with the Georgia Public Defense Foundation and the Fulton County Solicitor General to give low-level offenders a second chance. That’s if they enroll at the school in pursuit of a GED, or college certificate.

Gammage explained why putting young offenders in a college classroom is favorable to locking them up.

“Why would I use resources and the court system to prosecute people when we could put them in school?” he asked.

Booker thought her life was over when she was arrested. Then she heard about the Ladders program. Now she is on the way to a career in the medical field.

“It’s going to change my life forever,” she said.

Mike Render, A.K.A. rapper Killer Mike, is the chairman of the Public Defense Foundation. He said the program keeps people out of jail and gives them a blueprint for success.

“A program like this gives them an opportunity to course correct themselves,” Render said.

Gammage said statistics show most inmates have dropped out of high school in the 10th or 11th grade. So he said getting an education is valuable.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for someone to seize a second chance and they actually have to work for it. It’s not handed to them,” he said.

Once again, tuition is free thanks to donations to the Public Defense Foundation and federal grants. The students are monitored to make sure they are compliant.

Out of 11 students enrolled in the program, ten are still enrolled.