In the Hallways of the Statehouse


Advocating for people

Zack Eckles, University of Cincinnati College of Law
Zack Eckles, University of Cincinnati College of Law

I am a student at the University of Cincinnati College of Law working towards becoming an effective advocate for social change. I hope to work to turn the tides of mass incarceration, and ensure the criminal justice system actually deals in justice and does not become the criminal punishment system. In pursuing these goals I have been extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to intern for the Ohio Justice & Policy Center. Being a part of the client-centered advocacy and innovative policy work done by OJPC was truly rewarding.

While interning at OJPC I was able to accompany Deputy Director of OJPC, Stephen JohnsonGrove, to Columbus for his testimony before the House Commerce and Labor Committee. Before the hearing we sat down for lunch with a representative who had previously asked us to analyze his proposed legislation attempting to regulate a shady corner of the criminal records reporting industry. The lunch was productive, but we could not stay for long. After Stephen and several other activists and community members testified, the Commerce and Labor Committee voted and approved the bill in its current form. I learned more about what I want to do in my career in the hallway following the hearing than I did my entire first year of law school.

After the hearing Stephen stood before a small group of community members and other activists advocating for the bill. He walked them through what had been accomplished, what the next steps were, and the likelihood of the various possible outcomes. Although I had always conceptualized client-advocacy and policy-advocacy as different practices, in that hallway they were one and the same. I realized that a policy advocate does not actually advocate for policies, they advocate for the people that are affected by policies. I am leaving OJPC with a clearer understanding of what I want to do and how to do it.