Behind Bars: Utah prisons’ U-Prep program helps prepare inmates for the future

Monday , April 17, 2017 - 5:30 AM

BRIAN WOOD, Behind Bars columnist

Two years ago, when I first volunteered to help out at U-Prep, there were only a couple of dozen inmate students in the program; now there are over 200 who are eager to learn.

Many of the prisoners benefitting from this program are capable men who never had or took advantage of an opportunity to further their education — but now U-Prep is giving them that chance.

We have introductory college courses, such as math and English, which prepare students for college courses. Students are also taking courses in information technology, where they can learn a range of things from typing and word processing to computer programming.

 

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We also have a number of career-oriented courses where students are earning certifications. With or without credit or certifications, U-Prep is helping prepare prisoners for better opportunities in the outside world.

It’s really quite inspirational to see all the competent and dedicated inmates donating their time and expertise to help their fellow prisoners by creating and facilitating these courses. My current “cellie” volunteers about 20 hours per week working on the architecture course he facilitates, and there are dozens of other talented and experienced prisoners doing the same thing.

My job is to help create curriculum for U-Prep courses. To do this, I get to read books on all sorts of subjects. It’s a pretty good gig.

I’ve heard some prisoners, who are involved with U-Prep, compare their current prison experience to college dorm living. It may be an all-male boarding school, but it’s nice to be part of something that is so positive.

When I take a step back and look at what we’ve accomplished in the last two years, it’s really impressive.

Brian Wood, formerly of Layton, is an inmate at the Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison. He pleaded guilty to nine felony charges for offenses from 2011 to 2014, including counts of burglary, drug possession and prescription fraud. He could spend up to 35 years in prison, depending on parole hearings.

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