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Groundbreaking efforts keeping teens out of Georgia's criminal justice system

by: Aaron Diamant Featured on

In the latest chapter of Channel 2 Action News’ ongoing series highlighting crime solutions in Metro Atlanta, investigative reporter Aaron Diamant takes a deep dive into groundbreaking efforts to keep Georgia's teens out of the criminal justice system.


Over the last several years, the state of Georgia has seen a massive philosophical shift in how it handles kids charged with crimes. From smaller community groups to large-scale efforts that target and help guide at-risk youth, Diamant spoke with the leaders making the changes and the kids getting their best shot at success.


"It's a lifesaver to me," said high school senior Vernard Kennedy.


Kennedy, and the rest the rest of his L.E.A.D. Ambassador baseball team, got a second chance at life before it ever went south.


"It's keeping me busy instead of doing crimes,” Kennedy told Diamant. “When I could be out robbing people, killing people, instead, I'm having fun doing baseball and networking with big companies to help me in the future."


The baseball program, founded by former Chicago Cub standout and city of Atlanta native C.J. Stewart, targets Atlanta Public Schools teens at the highest risk for trouble. Stewart and his wife, Kelli, preach life skills to keep the young men out of "the system."


"Our goal is to make them aware of the system," Kelli Steward said. "The system that says if they're born into poverty in the city of Atlanta, they have a 4 percent chance of making it out. The system that says they have a better chance at being murdered and being involved in the criminal justice system than graduating from high school or going to prom."


While programs like the Stewarts’ impact the lives of a fortunate few, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, a former juvenile court judge, remains focused on the bigger picture.


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