Published in partnership with the Prison Journalism Project, which publishes independent journalism by incarcerated writers and others impacted by incarceration.

Sentencing Day Advice for Derek Chauvin, from a Fellow Murderer

Published in partnership with the Prison Journalism Project, which publishes independent journalism by incarcerated writers and others impacted by incarceration.

Dear Mr. Chauvin:

Since we are now on the same side of the legal system as convicted murderers, I thought it would be appropriate for me to give you some advice on how to navigate the prison system, and how you could find peace and contribute to society. But first, I must prepare you for sentencing day.

It will be rough. Your victim’s family will express their pain and also say things about you that will hurt. Don’t expect the judge to be nice, either. The whole world will be watching him, and it will be in his best interest not to speak to you in glowing terms.

Secondly, I know as you reflect on the events of that day, you are probably blaming George Floyd for what happened to him. That is not productive. I will give you the benefit of the doubt that you did not intend to kill him. Nevertheless, you must accept the fact that your unreasonable actions caused his death. Try to be contrite. It will take some time before you fully take responsibility, but it is the only way you could start the healing process.

I hope you get a reasonable sentence. You see, since we are now on the same side. I have no choice but to root for you. As I hope you would be rooting for me and other prison inmates like yourself.

As someone who believes in restorative justice. I would like to suggest a way in which you can become helpful in reforming police tactics. I strongly believe you think you were doing the right thing, that you were adhering to standard operating procedure. Looking at what is happening to other Black men (and women) when they interact with the police. I cannot disagree with you.

I urge you to speak openly about how the system failed you as it has been failing Blacks for years. Make suggestions that would improve the relationship between the police and the community they serve.

Finally, I hope you get a reasonable sentence. You see, since we are now on the same side. I have no choice but to root for you. As I hope you would be rooting for me and other prison inmates like yourself.

Sincerely,

M. Yayah Sandi

The Prison Journalism Project is an independent, non-partisan national journalism publication and education initiative that works with incarcerated writers and those in communities affected by incarceration by training them in the tools of journalism and helping them reach a wide audience.

PJP and The News Station believe intentional, responsible and well-crafted journalism from within the incarcerated community can break stereotypes, bring more transparency to a closed world and drive change in the criminal justice system.

M. Yayah Sandi is a writer at East Jersey State Prison in Rahway, N.J., where he is serving a 25-year sentence.

M. Yayah Sandi is a writer at East Jersey State Prison in Rahway, N.J., where he is serving a 25-year sentence.

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