An excerpt from Doug Ammar of the Georgia Justice Project
A few weeks ago, I had an unexpected visitor. Bill was one of my legal clients at Georgia Justice Project 25 years ago, and we were able to reduce his sentence and help him secure treatment for his addiction. This March, he celebrated 24 years of sobriety. Although we have stayed connected over the years, that day he was struggling and needed to talk with someone. Last month, Bill lost his wife to cancer, and he is now left to raise their four kids alone. He sat across from me, tears in his eyes, wondering how he and his family would survive and move forward. After we talked, he met with one of our social workers who is helping him chart a path during this difficult phase in his life. “A few hours later, I had another unexpected visitor. Mike was an early GJP client. He spent 24 years in prison. After his case was resolved, we regularly visited Mike and supported him. Mike finished serving his sentence five years ago and is doing very well now. He dropped by the office to share a cup of coffee in our kitchen, to fill me in on his promotion and to tell me about his new apartment. “These are not unusual events at GJP. These two visits – each client in a very different place, one celebrating, the other in difficult straits – reinforced for me the value and significance of our work. Thanks to the vision of our founder, John Pickens, Georgia Justice Project does something quite extraordinary. We provide legal services combined with social services for the neediest among us, poor people accused of a crime. GJP makes an investment both in immediate impact and in long-term relationships with our clients and their families in order to help change the patterns that change lives. “So many of our clients have the deck stacked against them. Their journeys often feature poverty, pain, abuse, neglect, violence, addiction and loss. When they come to GJP, they are often broken, in both heart and spirit. But we are able to see their full story, their potential and their hope for a better future. This is why we go beyond just legal representation and also provide the critical counseling, skill-development, accountability, and sincere care needed to help our clients make real and lasting change in their lives. My life is richer because of this work, and because of the incredible people I meet along the way.
If you wish to make a contribution to GJP, here’s a link: http://www.gjp.org/ways-to-support/donations/.
The Georgia Justice Project (GJP) is an organization that embodies the values and visions of PISLAP. GJP, with over 25 years of experience, strengthens the community by demonstrating a better way to represent and support individuals in the criminal justice system and reduce barriers to reentry. GJP promotes innovative change through direct legal representation, policy advocacy, education and coalition building. Doug Ammar, a PISLAP executive committee member, is the Executive Director of GJP