Scholarship makes law school possible for UC student

OIP fellow was once incarcerated, now helps others

When Damon Davis, a third-year University of Cincinnati College of Law student and Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) fellow, works with individuals in the prison system, he says he can relate — except for one important factor. 

“As hard as it was for me being incarcerated and being guilty, I can’t imagine how hard that would be for somebody who wasn’t guilty of what they were convicted of,” he says.

Damon spent four and a half years in federal prison. Working in the prison library was both his introduction to law and to serving others as he began assisting inmates with their appeals. As he honed his skills, Damon became passionate about helping those that weren’t being represented.

“It’s hard to understand if you haven’t been in a prison environment, but you’re just an afterthought to so many people,” he says. “There are not enough people fighting for those who don’t have a voice.”

When Damon was released, he was homeless with $26 to his name. He found a factory job that offered tuition reimbursement and began attending community college. While working 70-80 hours a week, he pursued his bachelor’s degree at the University of Kentucky. Work, school and his commute allowed for little sleep, and he would often nap in his car. 

It’s hard to understand if you haven’t been in a prison environment, but you’re just an afterthought to so many people. There are not enough people fighting for those who don’t have a voice.

Damon Davis UC Law student

“As I got getting closer to being done with my bachelor’s degree, I started thinking, ‘I’m doing well in undergrad, maybe I’m not too old to go to law school and go back to helping people?’” he recalls.

Cincinnati Law was not the only law school trying to recruit Damon, but what it offered was unique. He was drawn to its focus on social justice, in particular OIP and its successful record of helping wrongly convicted Ohioans. Scholarship assistance was available from the Florence Straus Fabe Scholarship and the George Van Antwerp Fabe Scholarship funds, and he received personal advice from Dean Verna Williams about doing what was best for him.

“Our community is committed to the pursuit of justice—in every field—so I was confident Damon would find his niche here. And as he approaches graduation, it’s clear that Damon has done so,” she says.  I look forward to seeing the difference he will make in the world.”

Damon says he has a lot of respect for Dean Williams, Cincinnati Law and the work of OIP.

He has also advocated for criminal justice reform through Prison Fellowship and helped inmates transition back into society through the Lexington Rescue Mission. Recently, Damon held a position at Neighborhood Defender Services of Detroit. And after writing a paper about police reform, he was asked by New Jersey legislators to work on a draft of a bill.  

The fact that I am in law school as a convicted felon would not be possible without the generosity of the people who support this university. UC has opened doors I never knew existed.

Damon Davis UC Law student

These experiences and his formal training at UC Law have prepared Damon for his future and those he will help. He says the impact of his scholarships will reach beyond his education.

“The fact that I am in law school as a convicted felon would not be possible without the generosity of the people who support this university,” Damon says. “UC has opened doors I never knew existed.” 

Featured image at top: Damon Davis. Photo/UC Alumni Association.

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