GACHEP was founded when students, alumni, administrators, and faculty in programs in higher education in prison came together with representatives of non-profits in the Atlanta area to support people who were pursuing higher education after they had been released. These initial meetings set the stage for GACHEP's mission: to provide people in prison and those who have left prison in Georgia with high-quality educational pathways from pre-college coursework to accredited degree completion. It also led to a shared commitment to support policy that expands access to higher education; to build networks for formerly incarcerated people who are pursuing higher education; and to connect people who have left prison to resources in housing, transportation, healthcare, and employment.
GACHEP's work represents a significant shift in the landscape of higher education in prison in Georgia over the last few years. In 1994, Pell Grants were banned for people in prison as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. Many higher education in prison programs nationwide shut down. In Georgia, no post-secondary programs were offered in prisons from 1994 until the last decade, when volunteers began offering classes and certificates at a handful of state prisons. Starting in 2016, for-credit classes and degree programs have begun to be offered at Arrendale , Phillips, and other facilities, and since then hundreds of students in GACHEP programs have taken classes and earned certificates or college credit; others have earned Associate degrees; some have begun to earn their Bachelor's.