Success Stories

A Life Worth Living After 40 Years in Prison

By September 3, 2019 2 Comments

Tevis Clark and Ed Patterson

At 69 years old, Ed Patterson is a self-described “workaholic,” eager to turn in a full shift whenever possible. He is approaching retirement but plans to continue working part-time and perhaps volunteer in his spare time.

“I gotta grind,” he said with a smile.

Even in his younger days, when he could not resist the pull of the street life, Patterson said he was not one to wait away the daytime hours on a street corner or the front steps. He stayed busy playing sports and working odd jobs.

After serving 41 years in prison over three separate stints, he has a newfound appreciation for the daily routine – and the same willingness to work.

“My worst day out here is way better than my best day in there,” Patterson said. “It’s a great feeling to have your feet on the sidewalk, knowing you can come and go whenever you want.”

Just days after being released from prison the last time, he enrolled in the JumpStart job-readiness workshop at Cincinnati Works. Soon thereafter, he got hired by Spectra Food Service to work at Duke Energy Center. He has earned multiple raises since then and is nearing his one-year anniversary on the job.

Tevis Clark, Patterson’s coach at Cincinnati Works and a longtime family friend, said his success highlights the value of a partnership, especially for individuals who are returning from prison. Patterson had the will and the work ethic, and Clark helped him address some issues that might have made it difficult to find and keep a job – from acquiring interview attire to regaining his driver’s license.

“Everyone here believed in me,” Patterson said. “I felt accepted right away.”

Ed Patterson (2nd from right) with his JumpStart classmates in August 2018

He thanked his family and friends – especially his longtime partner, Mary – for supporting him through his most recent prison term. His mindset gradually shifted from resignation to appreciation.

“For some reason, God saw me through everything,” Patterson said. “I’m just blessed. At one point, I didn’t think I’d ever get out. I wasn’t sure I would live long enough to get out.

“Every day now is beautiful. I wake up early – I always did, even in prison. I get my coffee, check the news. I walk the dog every day.”

On a recent morning, he relished the opportunity to drop off a grandchild at daycare before stopping by Cincinnati Works to meet with Clark.

“Even walking to the bank is a blessing,” he said, adding with a smile, “I’m getting all the things I got from doing illegal stuff, but now I’m safe, doing everything legally.”

As he catches up with more than 40 years of social and technological change, Patterson has advice for others who are approaching the end of a lengthy prison sentence: “When you get out, don’t think it’s over. You’ve still got a chance to do something with your life.”

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