A new program designed to combat drug activity in the City of Atlanta was recently launched by Fulton County District Attorney Paul L. Howard, Jr. and Fulton County Superior Court Judge Marvin S. Arrington, Sr. Project Turnaround, a pretrial intervention program, is a partnership of the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Atlanta Police Department, Fulton County Probation, Fulton County Superior Court, and the Concerned Black Clergy of Metropolitan Atlanta.
Project Turnaround is a one year program offered to defendants between the ages of 17-25, with limited criminal history, charged in Fulton County with drug offenses. The program provides pretrial intervention to the participants in the form of mentoring, counseling, life skills, and employment training. Resources are offered by the Georgia Department of Labor, United Way, Goodwill Industries, Job Corps, and other community organizations.
Project Turnaround was officially launched on May 22nd in Judge Marvin Arrington’s courtroom. Judge Arrington has been outspoken in talking to defendants about the bad choices that bring them to his courtroom and the consequences of continued bad behavior. “You come back before me again and you’ll think I was Mike Tyson” is a familiar warning given by Judge Arrington to encourage defendants to avoid repeat offenses. Now Judge Arrington provides the extra incentive that may help the participants of the program turn their lives around.
In Project Turnaround, a life turnaround plan is developed for each participant which may include GED classes, substance abuse counseling, and employment training. Participants also must commit to the care of any dependents they may have. To assist the participants in achieving the goals of their individual turnaround plan, each participant is assigned to a volunteer mentor and a citizens council. The citizens council, a group of community volunteers, meet each month to review the status of the participants. The citizens council and mentors provide updates to Judge Arrington. If a participant successfully completes the program, their charges will be dismissed.In order to promote involvement of the family, Project Turnaround allows family members access to the same educational and occupational training required of the participants. Project Turnaround is under the Community Prosecution Division of the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office. Community Prosecution Director LaDawn Blackett-Jones adds that the intensive focus of the program on life skills is designed to achieve a better outcome than traditional diversion programs.