OJPC recognizes how trauma and abuse contribute to women’s experience before, during, and after contact with the criminal justice system.
In Ohio’s prisons, the population of incarcerated women is growing much faster than that of incarcerated men. In our neighborhoods, women with criminal records struggle to find stable housing and financial self-sufficiency. Women’s histories of victimization and trauma are often directly linked to their criminal records, like taking defensive or retaliatory efforts to end abuse, or being forced to commit crimes like prostitution. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, nearly 6 in 10 women in state prisons experienced physical or sexual abuse before incarceration (versus 16.1% of males). Additional trauma is created when a woman is in prison or is stigmatized by a criminal record in the community.
Women in the criminal justice system deserve healing, not hurting.
The Women’s Project works to 1) remove criminal-records-based barriers to community reintegration and 2) secure release from prison. We are responsive to women’s unique needs, risks, and pathways in the criminal justice system and the community. Below are two specializations in which the attorneys at OJPC serve women.
Last year, 289 trafficking cases from Ohio were reported to national hotlines – a tiny fraction of the actual trafficked population. A study by the Ohio Attorney General finds that over 1,000 children are victims of sex trafficking every year statewide; plus, many more victims are adults. Traffickers force people to commit crimes like drug use, theft, and prostitution. When survivors escape, their long criminal records create lifelong barriers to employment, housing, education, civic participation, and family reunification. In Ohio, over 900 ‘collateral consequences’ limit all aspects of life, from jobs to recreation, for people with records (civiccohio.org).
Survivors of human trafficking need to become fully-reintegrated, empowered members of the community. OJPC helps survivors to overcome criminal-records-based barriers through: record sealing, Certificates of Qualification for Employment, Safe Harbor expungements, pardons, and more.
There is a tremendous need to release incarcerated survivors of domestic violence who are serving long prison terms for crimes against their abusers. 93% of women who kill their intimate partner do so as a result of domestic violence. Women who kill their batterers rarely commit additional crimes. Approximately 4,500 battered women in the US are incarcerated for defending their lives or the lives of their children against batterers. Ohio’s severely-overcrowded prisons hold the fourth largest population of incarcerated women in the United States. Our female prison population is growing much faster than the male population.
OJPC promotes opportunities for release in two forms: parole from the Parole Board or clemency from the Governor. In addition to providing direct client-representation, we work to engage and educate the legal, social-service, and political community on the injustice of keeping battered women in prison.
In Jan. 2019, in one of his final acts as governor, Gov. John Kasich granted the clemency request of one OJPC client. Thomia Hunter was incarcerated for 15 years after she killed her abusive ex-boyfriend in self-defense. Mia was represented by OJPC attorney Tiffanny Smith for several years. Less than 0.5% of clemency requests are granted in Ohio.
OJPC’s Human Rights in Prison project assists men and women who are incarcerated and in need of medical attention, have experienced excessive force or assault at the hands of prison staff, and those in need of advocacy to freely practice their religion. The Human Rights in Prison staff also serves LGBT clients, particularly transgender clients, whose unique needs are not recognized or met while in prison.
Women who have criminal records may struggle to find adequate employment, housing and/or education. OJPC’s Second Chance Legal Clinics are open to everyone, but the services provided — like record sealing and expungement — can be an important step for women on a path to recovery, freedom and independence.
Contact OJPC to get more information on the Women’s Project, schedule a presentation, discuss a potential case, support our policy advocacy, or collaborate. Send email inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.