Macon Site for Public Defenders Leadership Academy

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Area public defense attorneys gathered this week for the Georgia Public Defender Council (GPDC) Leadership Academy.

The Macon location was chosen for one of nine regional Leadership Academy sessions 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. “When curating this program, we stressed hosting sessions around the State, making this program more accessible to attorneys and staff who want to increase their professional management skills.” Future sessions will be held Columbus, Savannah, Young Harris, Augusta, Atlanta and Athens. The final session and graduation will be at the University of Georgia in May 2024.

Alli said that the innovative approach will help public defenders statewide enhance their leadership skills by cultivating and nurturing the qualities necessary for effective leadership.

“I reached out to the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute to provide the training because of its expertise,” she said as the Academy began Thursday. “The goal is to prepare defenders for increased opportunities and responsibilities.”

The GPDC Leadership Academy was developed by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government (CVIOG). It combines theoretical knowledge with practical applications. Through workshops and assessments led by a diverse group of CVIOG professionals participants improve their strategic thinking, communication skills, decision-making, conflict resolution, organizational management, and strategic budgeting abilities. Individual assessments will be provided to Leadership Academy members by CVIOG faculty.

Graduates of the Leadership 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 GPDC 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 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 being 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.

“The people of Georgia need to know that we are not the agency of years past that failed to provide adequate defense to the poor and was plagued by staff turnover and budget crises,” Alli said.

The Georgia Public Defender Council provides lawyers for more than 85 percent of people charged with crimes in Georgia. The Council, created by Georgia’s General Assembly, now operates more than 40 offices in Georgia that represent defendants in Juvenile, State, and Superior Courts. Learn more at www.gapubdef.org.

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