After being assigned to an African-American parole officer, a former neo-Nazi found himself in an unlikely friendship that would change his life for the better.
Source: ABC News
38-year-old Michael Kent of Colorado features tattoos all over his back, chest, and arms, all of which were acquired while in prison. Among those tattoos are several swastikas that he desperately wanted to have removed.
Kent set foot in a real tattoo parlor for the first time following his release with the goal of having the 20-year-old reminders of his past removed.
“It’s a lot different than the prison style,” he observed, “[For] one, it’s not done with guitar strings.”
Kent underwent a 15-hour process to remove the swastikas, a procedure that was fully paid for by tRedemption Ink, a non-profit organization that assists people in having hate-related tattoos removed pro bono.
Not a single tattoo Kent has acquired throughout his life came from a professional tattoo artist.
Kent spent many years associating with a violent Arizona-based skinhead group, which often led to prison sentences.
What Changed His Heart?
He credits his former parole officer, 45-year-old Tiffany Whittier, for inspiring his change of heart. “I got my caseload transferred to a black woman,” Kent told ABC News reporter Michael Koenigs, “If it weren’t for her I probably would have been deep back into it.”
When Whittier first entered Kent’s home she immediately took notice of the walls, which were adorned with German war flags and other Nazi paraphernalia. Kent recalled her saying, “You need to take that crap down and start putting up more positive stuff. Put up smiley faces so when you wake up, you see positive instead of hate.”
“I’m not here to judge him,” Whittier said, “That’s not my job to judge. My job is to be that positive person in someone’s life and try to make a difference.”
When asked if she foresaw herself playing a part in Kent’s transition, she said, “Not in a million years I would have ever guessed that Michael changed his life for the better.”
Source: ABC News
Prior to his dissent, Kent wouldn’t work for or with anyone who wasn’t white. He now is the only white person working with a staff of fourteen on a Colorado chicken farm.
“We have company parties or they have quinceñeras or barbecues or birthday parties – I’m the only white guy there!” he explained. “If you got a strong support system and you have people that believe in you in a positive way, you can change,” Kent said.
Now with two young children of his own, Kent told ABC, “I don’t want my kids to live the life I lived and live with hate. I want my kids to know me for who I am now—a good father, a hard worker, and a good provider.”
When asked if he now sees her as more than a probation officer, Kent said, “Yes, she’s much more than that. I would look at her as family…She gave me a chance and opened my eyes.”