I work in reentry in Louisiana. Everyday I am helping clients, who benefited from our state’s 2017 criminal justice reform laws, reenter society and make the most of their second chance at life. The majority of our clients were convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to life without parole. Because of changes to to our laws, many of our clients were able to get a parole hearing and a portion of them were indeed granted parole. These men and women are good people who made a terrible choice many many years ago and have since rehabilitated themselves, seen the error or their ways and are desperate to give back to the world. I’m proud to say they are all doing so in impressive ways. Yet, I am reminded daily that there is a difference between my clients and myself. They do not have “murderer” on their drivers licence but mine says “sex offender.” They can engage in social media and become a part of virtual society, I can’t. They are often featured in the media as symbols of redemption and society’s ability to forgive, I have only been featured as a mug shot meant to shame and malign me. When natural disasters loom the community opens it arms to offer shelter in their own homes while I would be excluded from shelters of last resort. I see men and women who were convicted of murdering a teenager go on to enjoy all life has to offer and live the American dream. A dream that is denied me because I made the horrible choice to have sex with a teenager. I am happy for and proud of our clients and I believe they have earned the right to be happy and contribute to society. But I often feel like I should be ashamed of wanting the same for myself. These are not thoughts I share with my clients. When my organization shows up at the capitol during the legislative session to push for more reform I know that people like me are purposefully excluded from any change we might see. I stopped sharing my feelings of exclusion with my fellow reform advocates once I realized they viewed “sex offenders” as serious weak spot in negotiations. I walk around feeling like a living irony. After years of having it beat into my head that “people like me” are even lower than the lowest and don’t deserve a second chance…. a part of me starts to believe that…..and the part of me that does still have hope knows I shouldn’t tell people I do. The only feeling that society wants me to have about myself is shame but they are much more generous with every other type of person who is formerly incarcerated.