Second chance gives Ruffin opportunities to help others

ATLANTA - Ladji Ruffin was sentenced to life for a murder he committed at age 19. By statute, his sentence made him parole eligible after serving seven (7) years. He served twenty-three (23) years in prison before the Parole Board approved his parole, releasing him in 2016. Today, Ruffin was a guest speaker at the State Board of Pardons and Paroles February meeting.

Ruffin called it a humbling and exciting experience to speak to the board and others who have really helped him.

“At 19 years old within the prison system I was very confused and I understood that I had an anger problem, so I took every class that the Department of Corrections had to offer,” Ruffin said.

He remembers being told by parole staff that parole is not a right, parole is a privilege and that’s something that stuck with him.

“That was something I wanted to fight for (parole) and when I got it, I wanted to continue to have it. Thank you for allowing me to serve the remainder of my sentence out on the street,” Ruffin said.

During his incarceration, Ruffin’s reentry got a boost when he was approved for the Department of Corrections’ braille program at Central State Prison in Macon. He credits the program with helping him continue with his reentry path.

“I could never express enough words, because at the particular time when I went into the braille program I just didn’t really know how instrumental it was going to be in my life.”

Ruffin through the Atlanta Transitional Center later worked as a member of the Governor’s Mansion Detail and he gave credit back to Georgia’s former first family for his success.

“Governor Deal was very instrumental in my life. They (Mr. and Mrs. Deal) were very hands on with (my) transition.”

Today Ruffin is a certified braille transcriber and operates his own braille business and he’s a mentor to other state inmates as he returns to various Department of Corrections’ prisons to speak to inmates. He also works mentoring inmates in the new Metro Reentry Facility as they prepare to be released from prison either on parole or after the completion of their sentence.

Parole Board Chairman Terry Barnard told Ruffin that it isn’t easy getting paroled from a life sentence in Georgia and the board must determine when the offender has served enough time as punishment for the crime.

Barnard says the board was able to look at the crime and determined Ruffin had changed.

“You’ve changed,” Barnard said. "You’ve earned that privilege (parole) and while you’ve only been on parole for three years, you’ve done an extraordinary job for those three years,” he added.

“Every day that you are successful on parole you give hope to someone coming behind you. That is your calling right now,” stated Barnard.

Ruffin said he wants to continue to be involved in reentry.

“Anything you all want me to help with, reentry or anything, I’m here; I’m available. Thank you for giving me a chance,” Ruffin stated.

Parole Board Members are full-time employees of the State Board of Pardons and Paroles. The Board consists of five members who are constitutional officers of the state with the responsibility of deciding which parole eligible inmates will be released on parole after serving an appropriate portion of their prison sentence. The Parole Board is authorized to grant paroles, pardons, commutations and reprieves and is the only entity in the state with the constitutional authority to commute a death sentence. 

Monthly board meetings are usually scheduled the first Tuesday of each month. Parole cases are not considered at the monthly meetings and parole decisions are not made at the meetings.

Watch the February Parole Board Meeting on YouTube

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