Ed West | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Ed West

gIMG_1379Ed West, a forever resident of Lexington, Kentucky, is a community mentor, loving father of three, professional welder, supportive husband, part time preacher, and a car restoration enthusiast. Among all of Ed’s defining qualities, he also wears a stigmatizing label: former felon. 

Along with spending 13 years in and out of prison, Ed moved in and out of drug and alcohol addiction while battling the negative influences of employment rejection and a lifestyle surrounded by limited opportunities. Ed shakes his head in remembrance saying, “Life was Hell.” 

“Prison did not prepare me to reenter society.” Sitting in a local coffee shop, Ed maps out his road to recovery by saying, “If you aren’t grounded in recovery, then you’re set up to go down the same path again.” Through rehab programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, Ed thanks his mentors for offering guidance and support towards becoming a productive member of society.

“I’m a former felon.  I paid my debt to society. Now I’m paying another debt.  I pay taxes but I can’t vote... If we all speak up, someone will hear us.  They say, ‘United we stand; divided we fall’.  Today, we have to stand united…..We have to speak up.  An unspoken voice will not be heard.”

Today, Ed is a Hope Center sponsor where he teaches recovery and uses his personal experiences to walk others through recovery. Ed defines success as “accepting your past, moving on from it, and embracing recovery.” Along with paying it forward, Ed views giving back as continuation of his recovery.

EdWest01Ed is a changed man; however, he is still paying for his crime. Society recognizes his felon title while ignoring his accomplishments. Despite all that Ed does for the city of Lexington, he remains a part of the 1 in 4 African Americans who cannot vote in Kentucky.

Ed offers 2 simple ways that anyone can join in advocating towards ending disenfranchisement. First, he encourages the support of programs designed to ease the “prison to society” transition. Second, citizens are encouraged to publicize success stories like his so that legislators understand specific examples of who HB 70 will positively impact.

Interview conducted by EKU grad students Molly Johnson and Meagan Wheeler

You can also watch a short speech by Ed West on this issue online Here.

Issue Area(s):