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ReEntry Stories: A woman finds salvation after incarceration

Lorrie Carter, employee at the Fringe Coffee House
Courtesy of Lorrie Carter

Last week we were introduced Patrick Davis, the co-founder of The Fringe Coffee House in Hamilton. Davis and his wife Sara created the Fringe, and range of services, to help re-entering citizens like themselves. Series host Mary Davis introduces us to the first employee of the Fringe.

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

Mary Evans: Lori Carter was incarcerated twice before surrendering to a recovery program. While inside, she joined Scars and Bars, the music art therapy program created by co-owner Patrick Davis.

While in the program, Lori journaled about her journey and what brought her to prison. When she returned to her hometown, she became the first employee at the Fringe. In this episode, Lorri talks with me about what attracted her to scars and bars and why she decided to take it seriously and how she is using her journal to help other return citizens.

Lorrie Carter: I met Patrick and Sara at Dayton Correctional Institution in Ohio. I got involved in their Scars and Bars program, and so they do music. We talked about the music, just about the deep poems inside of music, which relates to a lot of us. Especially, in prison; the deep things of it. And I still have this notebook. It's the Scars and Bars notebook that they give you, and that's where you write down your feelings. What did you get from the music video or from our discussion or what have you? So that same notebook I am now leading our Fringe Church Bible study with.

I've been in prison twice, actually, for the same thing. Honestly, because of where I was at mentally, and you know who I seek, which is God - that's for me - I was doing okay. However, when I got in the Scars and Bars, it's like I shifted. I shifted mentally. I shifted in my heart. I just started shifting, evolving. And I took the program serious.

So I would answer the questions honestly on paper with myself. And helpful? I mean, just so helpful. And then I would see how they treated everybody, not just one of us. And wow, I was blown away. I was a little, you know, suspicious at first, as we all are in prison with people that come in. But it was almost right away that I knew, like, these people are the real deal. So when I got out, I contacted them immediately and wow, the journey's been nuts.

For me, the employment was huge. And then the GED classes that are coming up, transportation, they're working with other people with that, with for cars, for housing. Actually, Patrick and Sarah are trying to get a building for people that's coming out of prison to have they have somewhere to go.

You can stay as long as you want, but they're also aware that people will be moving on to things better for them in their life. But they help you do that. They're not trying to keep you here. They're really not. I'm just one of those that I want to stay here. If you have been in prison and you need employment and you just get a hold of them, and if there's placement, which a lot of times there is, they just hook you right up. They ask about your story. They don't, but they don't prod, you know?

That's what they do. That's what they're here for. So they just help you in any way they can. I mean, that's what they've done for me. I mean, that's what they've done for my husband. You know, that's what they've done in my own presence with everybody. I've seen it with my own eyes, seriously, and then with all the resources. Wow. You know, it's just like anything else, a willing heart will prosper.

Mary Evans: Using her Scars and Bars journal Lorrie Carter he stills hosts a Bible study for women at the Fringe Church where her husband has become the co-pastor under co-owner and co-founder Patrick Davis.

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

Mary Evans is a Dayton, Ohio-based activist, abolitionist, and journalist. She holds a BA in the Business of Interdisciplinary Media Arts from Antioch College. In 2022 she was awarded the Bob and Norma Ross Outstanding Leadership Award at the 71st Dayton NAACP Hall of Freedom Awards. She has been a Community Voices producer at WYSO since 2018. Her projects include: Re Entry Stories, a series giving space to system-impacted individuals and West Dayton Stories, a community-based story-telling project centered on the people and places of Dayton’s vibrant West Side. Mary is also the co-founder of the Journalism Lab and helps folks in the Miami Valley that are interested in freelance journalism reach some of their reporting goals.