Michael Kent's arms and torso are covered in ink. Dozens of tattoos were inscribed in his skin throughout his time in prison. In the center of his chest a large dark swastika was emblazoned 20 years ago. It covered his heart and served as the centerpiece of mural of violence and anger etched into his body - until recently, when Kent had the symbol of hatred painfully removed.
The process of removing a tattoo is far more painful than having it administered. But Kent says the physical pain was worth it as he's trying to put a deeper emotional pain behind him.
Inspired by an unlikely new friend, Kent is making dramatic changes in his outlook and his life. “I don’t want my kids to live the life I lived and live with hate,” Kent said. “I want my kids to know me for who I am now—a good father, a hard worker, and a good provider.”
Kent attributes much of this new attitude to his new friend Tiffany Whittier, an African-American parole officer who saw past the color of his skin and the ink that adorned it. Whittier's non-judgmental approach helped Kent to see himself differently, and that allowed him to see her and others through a very different lens from the one he had been trained to view the world through during his many years in a violent skinhead group.
“If it wasn’t for her I would have seeped back into it,” Kent said, referring to the white supremacist movement. Their professional relationship developed into a friendship, and Kent fondly recalls her frank advice that helped him turn himself around. Regarding a nazi war flag that was hanging in his bedroom, Kent recounts how Whittier told him to "take that crap down, and put up more positive stuff; put up smiley faces so when you wake up, you see positive instead of hate."
Following his new friend's advice, Kent removed the flag. Following the new feelings of goodwill and gratitude he felt, he removed the swastika tattoo that covered his heart.
Watch ABC News' interview with Kent and Whittier here to learn more about this timely, inspiring story that reminds us of the power of kindness and the potential for change and friendship in even the most unlikely of scenarios.