Behind Bars: The universe righted itself during time in Davis County drug court

Monday , June 12, 2017 - 5:00 AM

BRIAN WOOD, Behind Bars columnist

Before I came to prison, I was given the opportunity to participate in Davis County’s drug court program. The deal was, if I successfully completed the program, I would walk away without any felonies on my record and would not serve any more jail time.

I don’t think I’ll spoil the ending by saying I didn’t make it.

My first sanction in drug court came when my urine analysis showed dirty for alcohol. I contested it because I hadn’t consumed any alcohol in the days leading up to the test in question. They retested the sample and said I was guilty.

 

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I thought the false positive was possibly due to my e-cigarette use, so I started smoking. I figured I was good to go. I was in the best physical shape of my life. I had substituted one addiction for another and thought I was doing great.

On one fateful Monday about a month before my drug court graduation date, I texted three of my friends in the morning saying, “Today just might be the best of my life.”

I was starting my new job, which came with good pay and a company car that day. But even better, the night before I figured I had somewhat officially “got the girl” I’d been after for months, even if she said the relationship was conditional on me quitting smoking.

I was on cloud nine.

Later that same day, my probation officer sent me a text saying my urine test had come up dirty for alcohol, and I was due in court the next morning.

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I went to the doctor and had him do a special alcohol test back three weeks. I wanted to prove my innocence. Had I admitted to drinking I would have spent a week in jail, and my drug court graduation would be pushed out another five months or until I got another dirty.

I was stubborn and fought. I paid for a private attorney. We contested the dirty for alcohol and when the sample was retested, it was negative for alcohol but now positive for Suboxone, a drug used to treat heroin addiction, which I had not taken.

Everyone in drug court believed me. My attorney told me the judge, nonetheless, decided I was going to prison. I didn’t have much of a leg to stand on, as I had agreed to drug court’s testing and decisions when I took the deal.

I was told the judge called me “a cancer to the drug court program.” Looking back, I think that’s a fair assessment.

Discouraged in jail, I ended up ruining any chance I had to stop myself from going to prison. When the opportunity arose, I used heroin in the county jail and was busted for it. I proved the antagonists right and let down all my supporters. There was no longer any reason to fight. Still the situation could be described as tragic — almost.

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Here’s the part of the story I left out: When I first got out of jail and was given a chance on drug court, I went right out and used heroin a couple of times. That was dicey, and I barely got away with it.

After that, I decided if I was going to get through drug court, I would need to be smart. So all through my time in drug court, I did what was necessary to make sure I wasn’t caught.

There wasn’t much I could do in the way of drugs, though there was something I figured I could get away with. In drug court, each week you know the maximum amount of drug tests that will be given. So when I would finish my allotted amount of urine testing on a Thursday, I knew I had three days in which I could drink alcohol.

I even had a name for it as it was a fairly rare occasion. On “Thirsty Thursdays,” I’d go give my urine analysis in the morning and meet a friend for lunch and a few beers at a sports bar. This may not seem that bad — and that’s partly how I rationalized it — but I was breaking the rules of drug court, committing infractions that could send me to prison.

You’d think with years of incarceration hanging over my head I would have acted like Mother Teresa, but I was confident I wouldn’t get caught.

I don’t know what might have been, whether I would have gone back to drugs; I felt I was done, but my actions and disregard for the rules said otherwise. I’ve done a lot of growing up since then.

Looking back, it’s ridiculous how hung up I was on the fact I hadn’t done what they were accusing me of. I was no different than the prisoners I’ve heard claiming they are getting a raw deal from the system and in the same breath brag about all the crimes they got away with.

So, to my probation officer who believed the system had got it wrong, that’s only true in the strictest legal sense. For all intents and purposes the universe righted itself the times I came up dirty.

I hear drug court has since fixed their testing due to the adamant refutations of drug test results by me and others. I hope so because it would be a tragedy for someone who had obeyed the rules to end up in prison; however, this was not the case for me.

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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