Kristen Eby is a Juris Doctor Candidate at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.
I spent summer 2019 interning for the Ohio Justice and Policy Center. I knew the second I walked out the door after my interview that I needed to work there, and when I got the call with an offer, I actually shouted because I was so excited. My excitement proved warranted: my summer was incredible. I met amazing lawyers, other students, staff, and clients who taught me invaluable life lessons, legal skills, and most importantly, what it means to fight for the people who need our help the most.
When I was with the OJPC, I worked to get two women released from prison. One client had been incarcerated for 20 years, and she was up for parole. After weeks of reviewing her file and piecing together her story, I got to meet her and hear her tell it herself. Seeing what it was like in prison, hearing her describe her traumatizing childhood, and seeing how she had maintained her dignity through it all was incredible. I wrote her parole memo, which was filed in July 2019.
A few months later, I received a text from my supervisor on the case (David Singleton) that her parole had been denied. I was crushed. She was the “ideal” candidate for release: an apartment ready for her to move into, a job lined up, a supportive family, dozens of letters of support from friends, family, clergy, teachers, and counselors, and certificates from more than 15 prison rehabilitation programs. Still, the Ohio Parole Board denied her. I visited her after I got the news, and although she said she was “destroyed” at first, she had regained that same dignity that I saw when we first met. This past spring, David managed to convince the Parole Board to reconsider her parole—an amazing accomplishment—and we’re waiting for the Board to schedule her hearing, fingers crossed for release.
This summer, I’m working for Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem (“NDS”), a holistic public defense office in New York City. I have planned to become a public defense lawyer in NYC since I began law school and working for NDS is a huge step towards that goal. I’ve met over twenty clients, attended arraignments, developed arguments to have clients released from prison pretrial, written memos on New York’s bail law reform, and written letters to convince prosecutors that clients should receive mental healthcare instead of prison sentences. I believe that I would not have gotten this position—or been as prepared to do the work—without my experience at the OJPC; I know very few law students who had a first-summer internship as hands-on and inspiring as mine, and it shows in the quality of my work today.
New interns at OJPC, take advantage of this opportunity. Talk to everyone in the office, including your fellow interns. Ask them about their lives, their experiences, and their work. They are incredible resources and they truly care about your success. Don’t be afraid to take on projects that seem out of your depth; you know more than you think, and whatever you don’t know, the OJPC will teach you.