Behind Bars: What's to miss about being in prison?

Monday , October 30, 2017 - 5:15 AM

BRIAN WOOD, Behind Bars columnist

A friend asked me what I’m going to miss most about prison. That’s not something I had given a lot of thought, but it’s a very valid question. Prison may be described as a timeout from life, but the fact is life goes on for people behind these walls. They call it serving time, but if you’re good at it, you don’t really think of it that way.

I’m not going to miss the loss of freedom per say, but the structure prison provides has its benefits. Even if my days are packed full of things to do, which they usually are, there exists a leisurely pace to prison life.

RELATED: Behind Bars: Without a job or apartment, going home is a daunting idea

I remember my days off outside of prison were often more hectic than work days. In here my Sundays are my day off and it is a nice break. I read a book over the weekend while watching football. I remember my dad reading books when we went on family vacation. As a kid I thought that was weird, but now it makes sense.

Prisoners have little in the way of actual responsibility. Our laundry is done and food prepared by someone and delivered to us, but it’s hard to say I’ll miss that. The food is awful and if I had a choice, I would rather wash my own clothes in a regular machine than with everyone else’s.

I will miss certain amenities. The weight set in my new section has been a game changer. I’ve got the convenience of a home gym with better equipment. I know I’m going to miss the basketball. And I don’t mean having really easy access to a court. I’ll miss being able to get a game together with little to no planning. It’s the same for playing cards. On the outside when my buddies and I wanted to arrange poker night on a Friday night with six friends, it would take some planning. In prison, I could probably get a game together by just yelling, “Poker!”

On the other hand, there are some less-than-desirable accommodations that are part of the deal: things I won’t miss. Even though living in a bathroom is convenient for when you have to get up and use the toilet in the middle of the night, I know I won’t miss it. I won’t miss anything about the bathroom situation in prison. Public showers, single-ply toilet paper, and an always cold stainless steel toilet top the list.

I try not to complain too much, but there are some much uglier sides to prison life. The ever-present threat of violence is pretty negative, but the worst thing is having to be around and interact with some really seedy individuals, not all of whom are inmates, and dealing with all the drama and unpleasantness which that entails. Since moving to a privileged section, this has been less of an issue.

I’m not going to miss having no rights and being treated less than by officers; however, I have come to see a silver lining. With clear lines drawn and the balance of power drastically in the favor of the prison and its staff, a camaraderie exists among the inmate population that I have not quite experienced elsewhere. It’s the story of the underdog. The smallest wins and simplest pleasures have more meaning and bring more gratification. I imagine I’ll miss that most.

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 25 years in prison, depending on parole hearings.

Sign up for e-mail news updates.