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Column: Better to own up to your mistakes than play the victim

By Staff | Aug 8, 2016

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.

I have a friend here in prison, who said, “I’m probably the worst individual you’ve met in this place, because I actually did all the things I was accused of.”

The humor in that is the fact so many prisoners minimize their crimes, make excuses, and play the victim.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a prisoner tell the story of his crime, all the while highlighting how he was cheated by the system and treated unjustly only to then brag about another crime he has committed and gotten away with. The irony blows my mind.

After hearing so many prisoners make excuses for their crimes, I have come to really detest this decidedly negative attribute, one I have been especially guilty of in the past. I had rationalized my bad behavior in many ways. The biggest excuse I came up with to explain my demise was that I went completely downhill after my wife left me because my world had been destroyed. All my legal trouble started then, and so, to many of my friends and acquaintances, this appeared to be the case.

Not only would I go along with this assumed explanation, I would outright lie about the situation. I claimed my wife left me completely out of the blue, and I simply fell apart after that. I would really play up my status as a victim in an effort to get sympathy from anyone who would listen.

The truth is my ex-wife left me because I was a drug addict and had been for years. Prescription pain killers became my main focus in life, and I let my marriage, career, family, friends and everything else in my life fall by the wayside.

The more I have heard so many excuses from other prisoners, the more I have tried to change this behavior in myself. And now the more I have started to take full responsibility for my circumstances, the better I feel. When you keep telling lies you start to believe them. I had convinced myself I had somehow gotten a raw deal, and that notion had me miserable.

Feeling like a victim sucks. When I finally figured out all the bad things that have happened to me were because I had been a horrible human being, I felt quite liberated, because I knew I could change. After coming to that conclusion and facing my failures, I started focusing on solutions.

With as many prisoners that claim to be innocent, I am sure I have run across some that are. And while that’s an upsetting thought, even they have the opportunity to decide how they will respond to their circumstances.


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