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While many people in the U.S. celebrated the conviction of former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin, the energy at Washington State Penitentiary was subdued. 

At first, inmates kept their feelings to themselves, probably because they can relate to the situation more than most. When questioned personally and alone, each inmate relaxed and agreed to discuss the conviction.

“(I feel) relief. It’s rare for police officers to be convicted for any wrongdoing,” said a Black man from Spokane, Washington. “I think this is a positive step in the right direction. America is listening.” 

The man said he hoped the police now understood they would be held accountable for their actions.

Another Black inmate from Western Washington said he saw Chauvin’s conviction as an unprecedented event. 

“I was surprised he was convicted on all charges,” he said. “Police officers have been killing people for a long time, and they never get convicted.” 

He said he believed the jury’s decision would save many lives among his community, as it will make officers “think before they shoot.”

Other inmates did not feel as strongly. Many had mixed feelings about the conviction. A Hawaiian man said he believed in standing up against racism, but felt that the Black Lives Matter movement was “blown out of proportion.”  “If it was a White guy or a Mexican, he [the officer] would’ve just got suspended,” he said.

A White inmate said he believed police officers abuse their power and that Chauvin should have received a more severe sentence. “Once someone is hand-cuffed behind his back, he is no longer a threat to anybody,” he said. 

Taking into consideration what all these men had to say, I believe Chauvin’s conviction answered a call for justice. When the jury pronounced him guilty on all three counts, it reminded Americans of the importance of recognition, accountability, and most importantly, justice for all.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Corey Minatani

Corey Minatani is a writer incarcerated in Washington. He is a doctoral candidate in ministry in theology at International Christian College and Seminary. He is also pursuing a paralegal certificate from Blackstone Career Institute. As an industrial/organizational psychologist, he evaluates prison college pedagogy, operations, and grievance systems. Corey’s pieces are submitted via American Prison Writing Archive, a partner of the Prison Journalism Project.