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Arts & Culture
Conversations, stories and perspectives from returned citizens in Southwest Ohio

ReEntry Stories: Returning from the 'fringe' of society

Patrick Davis
Courtesy of Patrick Davis

Every year in Ohio, more than 20,000 people are released from prison and many of them need jobs and transportation, a place to live and help just readjusting to life outside. For the next month, we’ll be hearing stories about The Fringe Coffee House in Butler County, where a husband and wife are using their own their prison experience to help others.

(Editor's note: The following transcript has been edited lightly for length and clarity.)

Mary Evans: The Fringe Coffee House, located in Hamilton, Ohio, is not your ordinary coffeehouse. Most of the employees at the Fringe are either returned citizens, part of the recovery community or volunteers. This unique place offers resources and figured out a way to provide a seamless transition to returned citizens and have a lasting impact on those waiting to return. Co-owner Patrick Davis is an international hip hop artist and speaker from Cleveland, Ohio. He is also the founder of Scars and Bars, a music art therapy program that is being offered in Ohio prisons. Patrick's journey began very rough, though.

At 16 years old, he was arrested for aggravated robbery with a gun and five counts of kidnapping, facing up to 45 years in the penitentiary. Patrick had a life changing experience while in prison. After only four years, he was released from a maximum security juvenile detention center. Defying the odds, he traveled the world, reaching out to those in prison, on the streets and on the fringes of our society to use it against us. Before the Fringe Coffee House, Patrick used his love for music to create an outlet for incarcerated individuals to therapeutically get to the root cause of their incarceration. Patrick talks with me about Scars and Bars and how it all got started.

Patrick Davis: Yeah, I started off when I was in prison writing music, create music, and once I was released, I started recording records, traveling, touring. But I've always wanted to go back. So I'd go into prisons that I was in, different places that I was in and out. It was basically just a concert. I'd do a show or take some other people that have gone through some stuff. We would put on a dope show, share our stories. Hey, you know, this doesn't have to be the endless cycle for your life. And that was kind of what it consisted of. And then that grew into, hey, instead of just going to one or two prisons, 'What if we literally did a tour of all the Ohio prisons?'

And so we started doing that, you know, going through and literally almost every prison in the state. It went from the shows to being, we've narrowed our focus and we focus on the two closest maximum security prisons to where we're located, which is Lebanon Correctional and Dayton Correctional. But it's more from being just a concert to a ten week holistic music and art therapy program that's designed to get to the root causes of why people end up in prison. Right? Not, hey, I'm here for a robbery, right? I'm here for murder. This is my charge. But no, man, what's the root of the tree? What was the start of this road? Right. Some of that stuff is systemic injustice. Some of it is childhood trauma. Some of it's growing up without a father. Addiction issues, all these multilayered issues we really dig in.

Mary Evans: When I asked Patrick why this work is important to him, he said with no hesitation...

Patrick Davis: Hey, like I was in here, I know what it feels like, and I want to let people know that you're not forgotten.

Mary Evans: A year later, the Fringe is still celebrating sobriety dates, hosting recovery meetings and providing employment to returned citizens. Also located at the Fringe is a church where you come as you are a studio for recording music and podcasting and resources for housing recovery and parental reunification for reentry stories.

ReEntry Stories comes from the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.