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As a former White supremacist, I have a more nuanced view than most on the sentence Derek Chauvin received for murdering George Floyd.

As a lifer myself, I am disappointed he didn’t get a life-top or “L” on his sentence. When I murdered a man, I was sentenced to 26 years to life (life-top or “L”). That life-top can be particularly demoralizing. I’ve now done more time on denials from the parole board than on my sentence.

I am in a psychiatric facility at the California Men’s Colony East, D-Quad. There seems to be a tacit agreement here not to discuss divisive social and political issues. We’re more focused on overcoming our psychiatric concerns.

But I couldn’t agree more on our need for police and criminal justice reform. Our country’s overreliance on incarceration has done much more damage than good to our society. But I desire smart reform. And the wars on drugs and crime? They’re predominantly aimed at our own citizens. We’re at war with ourselves, repeating past failures and mistakes, correcting and overcorrecting.

Socially and politically, we’re tearing ourselves apart as well. As long as we insist on lording our supposed moral superiority over each other, we will continue. From my perspective as a former White supremacist, it seems pretty popular to hate old, White, straight, Christian men these days. Doubly so for those with a conservative bent or those who are pro-law and order.

But I also know that correcting racism with more racism is no remedy. 

As long as we continue to devour ourselves, we will never achieve our full potential as individuals or as a nation. We will continue to lay waste to our own communities and neighborhoods. And although I am a former White supremacist, in my experience, racism and nationalism are by no means exclusive to the White race. (I’ve been beaten up by Black, White and Mexican cops, as one example.)

I wasn’t born a racist; I was taught to be one. Since then, I have made a decision to reject that learned behavior. I choose in each moment to reject my own racism. 

Still, I know hate intimately. Most of my life, it was the trait that defined me. Does that make me morally inferior? Does my skin color? The skin color of my loved ones?

I suffer unbearable guilt and shame for many things that I have done. In addition to my Catholic guilt, my shoulders are neither big nor strong enough to shoulder anyone else’s guilt. 

The media and the world at large tells me that I’m a moral reprobate — undeserving of love, justice, forgiveness or any other consideration from society, but I am all for justice — criminal, social, moral and financial. 

 
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. The Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned. The work is lightly edited but has not been otherwise fact-checked.

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Joey LeBlanc

Joey LeBlanc is a writer who is serving a 26-years-to-life sentence at California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo, California. He was 19 years old when he committed his crime and describes himself as “a fat, tired old man who just wants to return to what’s left of my family and loved ones.”