SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri artist is covering racist tattoos for free to try and give people who've had a change of heart a second chance.

Springfield tattoo artist Justin Fleetwood announced last month that he was offering the free service, The Springfield News-Leader reported . Fleetwood said he's been surprised by the amount of interest.

"I already feel more strongly about it just since I started talking to these people," he said. "I was like, 'Man, this is a bigger deal than I thought to these people.'"

Fleetwood said he believes he'll only be able to cover one or two tattoos a week, but he hopes other tattoo artists will join him.

"I'm not an activist. I'm not going to storm Washington or anything like that. But this was kind of an opportunity for me to contribute to something I believe in," he said. "If I can use my trade to make a difference in people's lives, then I think that's pretty cool."

Jason Bland is among those seeking Fleetwood's help. Bland got tattoos of a swastika and "1488 white pride" while he was in prison in 2007.

"In there, it tends to breed hate because you don't have much hope," he said. "I covered my body with racist tattoos because that is what I was about. I hated everything and everyone."

But Bland said his feelings have changed since then, especially now that he has a biracial daughter. He said having the tattoos removed from his body will allow his daughter to appreciate who he is today, instead of seeing who he was in the past.

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Information from: Springfield News-Leader, http://www.news-leader.com