The Women’s Project


Our Work

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. Three key initiatives within our Women’s Project are described below.

Human Trafficking Survivors in our community

Human trafficking is a fast-growing, under-reported form of modern-day slavery. 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.

Justice for Tyra Patterson

For 23 years, Tyra Patterson was imprisoned for crimes she did not commit. Six of Tyra’s jurors submitted affidavits stating that they would have never convicted Tyra had they known of evidence that Tyra’s defense lawyers did not put before the jury. Also, the victim’s sister, Holly Lai Holbrook, has corroborated Tyra’s innocence and urged Gov. John Kasich to release Tyra. Despite her wrongful conviction, Tyra has kept a positive attitude, taken every opportunity available to her in prison to help others.

Thanks to work by OJPC and its supporters, Tyra was released from prison on Christmas Day, 2017. Today, she works as a paralegal at OJPC to “give back” to the organization that set her free, she says. Her passion is working with young people as a mentor, particularly to help steer them away from incarceration.

But Tyra’s battle isn’t over yet — her clemency is pending. You can sign the petition asking Gov. Kasich to pardon Tyra here.

Incarcerated survivors of domestic violence

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.

Contact OJPC to get more information on the Women’s Project, schedule a presentation, discuss a potential case, support our policy advocacy, or collaborate on #HealingNotHurting. Sending email inquiries to  snaiman@ohiojpc.org or tsmith@ohiojpc.org.

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