Mission & Beliefs

Common Good Atlanta provides people who are incarcerated or formerly incarcerated with broad, democratic access to higher education so they can develop a better understanding of both themselves and the social forces at work around them. 

  • We believe that access to higher education strengthens the common good of communities.
  • We believe that the intellectual, social, and psychological resources of Georgia’s colleges and universities can make a profound difference in Georgia’s prisons.
  • We believe that communities are weakened when access to higher education is restricted on the basis of privilege, background, class, race, religion, age sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or history of incarceration.
  • We believe that higher education can restore human dignity, helping enable incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people to assert themselves as positive influences on society.
  • We believe that ongoing connection with Common Good helps to support and fortify formerly incarcerated people as they re-enter free society as citizens and neighbors.
  • We believe that Common Good Atlanta benefits significantly when formerly incarcerated people help lead our organization, deliver our programs and advocate on behalf of our mission

Humble Beginnings

Common Good Atlanta (CGA) began in 2008, with one Ph.D. student, Sarah Higinbotham, who felt called to volunteer to teach at a prison as a response to her uncle's incarceration. After writing fourteen Georgia prisons, Phillips State Prison finally accepted her offer to teach a course. That semester, Sarah provided all the books for the course on world literature. The class filled in twenty minutes, with ninety incarcerated men on the waiting list.


In 2010, after two years of teaching by herself, her graduate school friend Bill Taft joined the work. Together, they co-direct Common Good Atlanta, which has grown to more than sixty faculty members teaching over thirty-five courses across four prisons.

Who We Serve

In addition to the work we continue to do at Phillips State Prison, we have expanded our programs into three other prison facilities across Georgia including Metro Reentry Facility, Whitworth Women's Facility, and Burruss Correctional. Beyond our work in prison facilities we also offer classes for Alumni at our Downtown Atlanta location.

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The students of Phillips State Prison came together to talk about the space that CGA provides and what it means to them.  Following is their identify statement.

Through our participation and work with CGA's we have become a community of passionate, ambitious students that are capable of renaming the world. As scholars we work to break through stereotypes and constraints, by growing and expressing ourselves academically. By working through rigorous academic challenges in a creative and scholarly manner, we have transformed and challenged ourselves through humanizing experiences, which in some instances has saved our lives.

Through CGA, we have been able to cultivate the knowledge, experience, and confidence needed to create better futures for ourselves. The results of our work is demonstrated by a body of academic achievements that now stand archived in prominent institutions of higher learning and in several.

- Philips State Prison CGA Scholar’s Identity Statement