Columbus Public Defenders Among 22 Chosen Statewide for Leadership Academy

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A class of State public defense attorneys gather in Columbus today and Friday for the third session of the inaugural Georgia Public Defender Council (GPDC) Leadership Academy.

Columbus was chosen for the third of nine regional Leadership Academy sessions to be held statewide, said GPDC Director Omotayo Alli.

“The Leadership Academy is the first professional management development opportunity of its kind for our state’s public defenders,” Alli said. Future sessions will be held in other Georgia cities. The final session and graduation will be at the University of Georgia in May 2024.

Alli said that the innovative approach will help four Columbus public defenders who are among the 22 public defenders and staff selected for the Academy to enhance their skills by cultivating and nurturing the qualities necessary for effective leadership.

“I reached out to the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government (CVIOG) to provide the training because of its expertise,” Alli said. “The goal is to prepare defenders for increased opportunities and responsibilities.”

The GPDC Leadership Academy combines theoretical knowledge with practical applications. Through workshops and individual student assessments led by a diverse group of CVIOG professionals participants will improve their strategic thinking, communication skills, decision-making, conflict resolution, organizational management, and strategic budgeting abilities.

Graduates of the Academy will be prepared to assume leadership positions within GPDC as well as to become influential agents of change in their communities, Alli said.

The Leadership Academy is the latest in a series of innovations implemented by Director Alli since being appointed to her position in late 2019 by Governor Brian Kemp.

“Starting amid the COVID-19 pandemic presented unprecedented challenges that became blessings as we were compelled to innovate new ways of fulfilling our responsibility to provide legal representation to those unable to afford a private attorney,” Alli said.

Governor Kemp has supported improvements to GPDC including landmark legislation that passed without opposition creating funding equity between Circuit Public Defenders and District Attorneys – a first-of-its-kind legislation in Georgia.

That legislation in 2022 and subsequent budget increases have allowed Executive Director Alli to recruit and staff 14 additional regional offices to provide more direct service to clients than any previous year.

Another innovation by Alli, The Ladders Program, guides individuals aged 16 to 24 as they transition from the justice system and reintegrate into society by making meaningful contributions at work and at home.

The yearlong Ladders program includes career development, intensive case management, vocational training, and job placement. Ladders workshops equip participants with essential skills for workforce readiness.

“We believe that everyone deserves a second chance, and access to a subdivision, not a cell division,” Alli said. A further innovation by Alli is that The Ladders Program is funded by the nonprofit Georgia Public Defense Foundation. Learn more at www.gapdf.org.

An extensive public education effort via videos and social media has been launched by Alli to reflect improvements to GPDC since 2020.

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