Clemency Project Helps Ohio Woman Leave Prison, Now She Wants to Help Others


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An Ohio woman is reflecting on being given a second chance after spending more than a decade in prison for killing an abusive partner in self-defense.

Thomia Hunter was granted clemency earlier this year by then-Gov. John Kasich. Hunter already had served 13 years of her 15-years-to-life sentence when she was released from prison through the work of Ohio's Clemency Project. She said many women in her situation have never committed a violent offense, until they end up in an abusive relationship.

"Before this, I was an ideal citizen — I paid my taxes, I didn't do anything against the law," she said. "I found myself in an abusive relationship and I just wanted to live, so I had to defend myself."

This month, Hunter celebrates her five-month anniversary being home. She is employed and attending college.

The Clemency Project is a partnership between the Ohio Domestic Violence Network, the state Public Defenders Office, the Ohio Justice and Policy Center and others.

Nancy Grigsby, legal assistance program director at the Ohio Domestic Violence Network, said being a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault actually increases the odds that a woman will end up in prison.

"This is the first time any had attempted to organize a clemency project on behalf of battered women in Ohio," she said. "One of the things we really learned more deeply in this project was that the victimization experiences of women who defend their lives and are convicted of crimes are vastly misunderstood."

Hunter said she wants to help other women who remain behind bars for reasons similar to hers.

"Hundreds of women that are in the institution that I left," she said, "that are in the same situation that I'm in, but didn't get the privilege of being able to have a second chance and be released."

Nationwide, about 4,500 women are incarcerated for defending their lives or the lives of their children against abusers, according to the Ohio Justice and Policy Center.

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