OJPC’s summer legal internship in a year unlike any other


By: Tiffanny Smith, former attorney and internship coordinator at OJPC.

As the summer intern coordinator for OJPC over the past 4 years, I have had the pleasure of interviewing, training, supervising, and mentoring over 50 summer interns – students from high school, college, graduate school, and law schools throughout the U.S.  We strive to provide a comprehensive summer program that allows our interns to explore the nuisances of the criminal legal system, encourages them to share their viewpoints, and introduces them to organizations and people that they might not otherwise meet.

They always get to meet the man who started it all – Cincinnati civil rights attorney Alphonse Gerhardstein – get training in racial inequity, and learn trauma-informed skills. Our summer agenda also includes tours of the Hamilton County Justice Center and prison, visits with our incarcerated clients, conversations with judges, advocacy in our Second Chance clinics, and record sealing, appellate, or parole hearings.

This pandemic put a wrench in some of these face-to-face encounters and access to facilities, requiring us to become adaptable in 2020.  We learned to be open to unexpected opportunities, such as using Zoom to involve interns at other locations, participating in peaceful protests and having conversations on police reform.

For 23 years, OJPC has continued the colossal fight against an incredibly flawed, criminal legal system.  With our summer internship, we hope to educate, encourage, and inspire future leaders. When I look at where our past interns are now, I am grateful that we do just that. Every summer, the staff at OJPC is inspired by the diverse backgrounds, creative ideas, and valuable input that our interns share with us. 2020 was no exception to that. I am thankful to OJPC for the opportunity and to all the amazing and talented interns that have spent their time working with us.  In the words of John F. Kennedy, “One person can make a difference and everyone should try.”


Second Chance Director (and former OJPC intern) Alicia Miller now leads the OJPC internship program.