There are 55,000 people in prison and millions of formerly incarcerated people in the state of Georgia. While Georgia has one of the highest per capita prison populations in the country and the world , there are only a handful of programs that provide degrees to people in prison in the state. When people leave prisons, they face an array of barriers to obtaining a college education--from discriminatory background checks to limitations on access to housing and employment. Compared to 20% of the total US population, only 4% of people leaving prison have a college degree . Limitations on access to education compound the racial and economic inequities at the heart of the US penal system, and which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nevertheless, people in prison and formerly incarcerated people regularly overcome these obstacles and earn degrees during and after their incarceration. GACHEP is made up of students, faculty, alumni, and administrators of higher education programs in prisons in the state who have witnessed this success firsthand and are committed to making sure it is available to others. We believe education is a right, and we believe people impacted by the prison system deserve the same opportunities as others to learn, grow, teach, and lead in their communities.
To that end, GACHEP aims 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. To build these pathways, GACHEP advocates for policy that expands access to higher education; supports people through their college journey, from applying to matriculating and graduating; grows networks of formerly incarcerated people, Universities, and other nonprofits who support this mission; and connects people who have left prison to resources in education, 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.
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If you are formerly incarcerated or at a Georgia Transitional Center and would like support in pursuing higher education in Georgia, please complete this survey.