Ohio Justice and Policy Center

Nonprofit law firm advocating for fair, intelligent, and redemptive criminal justice systems

Grantee Cohort Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021

Location Ohio

“I don’t want [formerly incarcerated] women’s voices to be left out of the conversation… I love that we have men who are coming out, there’s always stories about them, but I want them to empower women as well.”- Tyra Patterson, community engagement strategy specialist at OJPC (WCPO Cincinnati)

The Ohio Justice and Policy Center (OJPC) creates fair, intelligent and redemptive criminal justice systems through its advocacy and community education. With continued support from Art for Justice, OJPC furthered its advocacy to reduce barriers and increase opportunities for Ohioans with criminal records. Last year the Center had numerous policy wins in reducing the size of Ohio’s prison system.

Alongside other advocates – including Art for Justice grantee partners Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, Represent Justice and the Alliance for Safety and Justice – Ohio became the 23rd state to abolish juvenile life without parole sentences.

OJPC advocated for a new law that enables people with underlying substance abuse issues to access treatment in lieu of conviction and uses the “non-conviction/not guilty” record-sealing mechanism that avoids more than 130 conviction-related sanctions for people with drug convictions.

OJPC opened up career and economic opportunity for people who have been incarcerated through the Fresh Start Act, which prevents more than 125 occupations requiring professional licenses from denying an initial license because an applicant has a conviction on their record. This legislation was vital because 1 in 5 Ohioans require licensure for their occupation.

The Center’s policy staff also led a campaign to pass legislation that prevents individuals with severe mental illness from capital punishment. Its legislative efforts, dating back to 2015, brought this first-in-the-nation reform to Ohio.

This new Art for Justice partnership will enable OJPC to have an outsized impact on the intrinsic racism in the criminal legal system by knocking down its harshest pillar—the death penalty. And the Center will have a second outsized impact eliminating the criminal legal system’s ability to prey on indigent people through the cash-bail system—the starting point of the harm wrought by this system.

In the long-term, the Center will end the most harmful aspects of policies that are systematically dehumanizing and over-criminalizing Ohioans. With continued support from Art for Justice, OJPC furthered its advocacy to reduce barriers and increase opportunities for Ohioans with criminal records. As part of this work, OJPC expanded its Second Chance Project, clinics to give people relief from their criminal records, so they can advance professionally, qualify for better housing and engage in their communities. They helped 15 Second Chance clinics and met with 500 people and made significant strides toward expanding Ohio’s criminal record sealing laws, creating automatic sealing for non-convictions and reforming occupational licensing laws that block those who have been incarcerated or system-involved from careers.