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It was interesting watching Derek Chauvin sit in the courtroom, waiting to learn his fate. He looked significantly thinner than the day he knelt on George Floyd’s neck, with veiny, muscular forearms growing out of his police uniform. I’m guessing he’s been pretty stressed. I know I was when I sat in county jail, facing a 35-year sentence.

Maybe he hasn’t been eating well. Most jails serve meals that fall miserably short of meeting any recommendation for a healthy and balanced diet. The people who run them care about the health of those they oversee, about as much as Chauvin and his partners cared when Floyd cried that he couldn’t breathe.

The commissary selection is usually pathetic as well. Chauvin might have somebody sending him money so he can order food to supplement what the county has been depriving him of. Many of the people he’s arrested probably didn’t, though, as crime tends to stem from poverty.

His expression was different than the day he committed his crime, but that’s normal amongst us criminals, isn’t it? We get so cocky, and that’s why we get caught. Then, when we stand where Chauvin stood on June 25th, like him, we look so helpless and sorry.

I wonder if he’s ever inwardly snickered at those he’s put away, thinking, You’re only sorry you got caught. The second you’re released, you’ll do what you did again. I also can’t help but wonder, had Chauvin never been charged, had he been allowed to remain a Minneapolis Police officer, what are the chances he wouldn’t have eventually re-offended?

Rather than the nice hairdo he had before he was taken into custody, he had the same county jail buzz-cut that prisoners whose trials he’s previously testified at likely had. And when his mother cried because she didn’t want him to grow old in prison, the judge and prosecution showed the same degree of sympathy that he did when George Floyd cried out for his mother with his dying breaths.

Then, he was given 22-and-a-half years in prison, and though many of my incarcerated neighbors breathed a sigh of relief, I turned off my television and reminded myself of who I am.

I’m a prison abolitionist. I believe in rehabilitating broken people, rather than hoarding them for decades in concrete and steel money mills. And, yes, this applies to Derek Chauvin as well.

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.

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Michael J. Moore

Michael J. Moore is a Latino writer and the author of the psychological thriller “Secret Harbor”; post-apocalyptic novel “After the Change,” which is used as curriculum at the University of Washington; and “Highway Twenty,” which was published by HellBound Books and appeared on the Preliminary Ballot for the Bram Stoker Award. His short fiction has appeared in various anthologies, journals, newspapers and magazines and has been adapted for theater and performed in the City of Seattle. His articles are published in HuffPost, YES! Magazine, CBS and the Point. He is incarcerated in Washington.