A former white supremacist recently had his Nazi tattoos removed, and he credits his African-American parole officer with helping him turn his life around.
Michael Kent, 38, from Colorado, had a swastika tattoo on his chest for over 20 years, he told ABC News last week, and his home was decorated with Nazi flags. He said that previously, he would never have worked with anyone who isn’t white.
Now his Nazi tattoos are gone, the flags on his walls are replaced with smiley faces and he works on a chicken farm with Hispanic people (he is the only white person there).
Kent credits his transformation to his parole officer, Tiffany Whittier, a 45-year-old woman, who Kent now says is like part of his family.
“If it wasn’t for her I would have seeped back into it,” he told ABC. “I look at her as family.”
“I was part of a skinhead group,” Kent said. “A very violent group.” He said the first tattoo he ever got was a “white pride” racist tattoo. Like all his ink, that was done while he was in prison.
“I’m not here to judge him. That’s not my job to judge,” Whittier said.
Kent surprised his parole officer by having his racist tattoos removed, with the help of Redemption Ink, a nonprofit offering free tattoo coverups for those bearing racist or hate tattoos.
Redemption Ink put him in contact with Fallen Heroes Tattoo in Colorado, which performed the 15-hour procedure to remove or cover over all his racist and Nazi tattoos.
“I’ve never, never, never been inside of a tattoo shop getting a professional tattoo,” he told ABC. When asked how it differed from getting inked in prison he replied, “This one wasn’t done with guitar strings.”
“If you have a strong support system, and you have people that believe in you in a positive way,” said Kent, “you can change.”
Kent surprised Whittier when he showed her his new, hate-free skin.
“Not in a million years would I have guessed that,” she said. “Michael changed his life for the better.”
She downplayed her role in Kent’s transformation.
“My job is to be that positive person in someone’s life,” said Whittier. “Try to make a difference.”
Kent told ABC how her advice had changed his attitude.
“When you wake up and see a smiley face, you’re going to go to work and you’re going to smile,” he said.
Although Whittier was a huge influence on Kent, he said that another important force behind of his motivation to change was his two young children.
“I don’t want my kids to live the life I lived and live with hate,” he said. “I want my kids to know me for who I am now — a good father, a hard worker, and a good provider.”