Albany man turns federal prison time into positive movement

Travis Luke grew up in South Albany. He spent many years in federal prison, but now parents trust him to guide their children in the right direction
Published: Mar. 5, 2023 at 3:55 PM EST
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - An Albany man who served 10 years in federal prison is trying to be a part of the change in Albany.

He served a decade-long sentence in federal prison for conspiracy to traffic cocaine. That was after he had spent years in state prison.

Travis Luke joined a gang at South Side Middle School, which is now 4C Academy, in Albany when he was 11. His life choices led to an incident where he was shot and lost 4 of his fingers.

“I don’t go a day without remembering how I lost my fingers. It’s impossible,” Luke said.

Luke didn’t have a father figure growing up.

“My mother was my support system with the love. The streets were my father with the money,” Luke said.

The “streets” as Luke calls it, were the obvious choice for him. He says it’s also a clear decision for young men in Albany with a similar situation.

Law enforcement in Albany have said in recent weeks that youth gang participation is increasing. According to National Gang Stats, Black people make up between 30% and 35% of all gang members in the United States. That number increases to about 50% in rural areas. Ninety percent of gang members are male.

Luke says gangs are a part of reality.

“You’re not stopping gangs. It’s just not going to happen. So let’s try something different,” Luke said.

Luke says gangs only get more connected and stronger in prison. So, at 38 years old, he is going from family to family to mentor kids and their families. This is so kids don’t resort to gang violence and drug trafficking like he did.

Luke said nothing will change until families learn the power and use of having good credit. It’s a lesson he learned every day in his 10 years of rehabilitation is federal prison.

Luke is now a published author. He wrote “Product of My Environment.” He wants young people everywhere to pick it up and learn from his mistakes.

“Not everyone in my environment chose to break laws. I decided to be a part of destruction... I want people to get out of the mindset of using their environment for marking bad decisions,” Luke said.

The book is 140 pages long. Luke said it’s in simple language because he wanted a middle schooler to be able to pick it up.

His role model is Malcom X because of the barriers he broke and his unrelenting efforts to create change. He wants to be other kid’s role model.

“Black History means leaving behind the legacy. That’s what I’m aiming to do now. Leave behind a legacy so I can be considered somebody that contributed,” Luke said.

The problem gets overwhelming for him. Many mothers reach out to him because they are afraid of the man their son is becoming. Luke said he can’t help everyone because he has his own family to feed.

“I’m driving from one place to one place like. I have to ignore some messages because once I start a dialogue I feel responsible,” Luke said.

To expand his outreach, he also speaks with students in schools in Dougherty and Lee Counties. He plans to expand his outreach by involving more of his close friends who have served prison time before.