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Life in prison wasn’t bad, until life gave me a punch in the face … literally

By Brian Wood, Behind Bars - | Jul 4, 2016

Sometimes when things are going along fine, life has a way of punching you in the face. I recently experienced this, and it just so happened that it came when I was literally punched in the face.

I was playing basketball, or as I have referred to it in the past, prison-ball (being that it deserves its own name because of the greater physicality and lesser adherence to the rules of basketball). It is my activity of choice when I do get time to go to the yard.

Another prisoner, who weighs about the same as me but is a few inches taller, was posting me up (pushing me right under the basket). In a normal game of basketball if someone does this they are not permitted to stay within the painted area under the basket, or “key,” for longer than 3 seconds. Of course, this is not the case in prison ball. After counting for more than 15 seconds and then announcing how long this prisoner had been in the key, I decided it was my job to move him, because I didn’t want to surrender this advantage to the other team.

So that’s what I did; I used my lower center of gravity and moved him right out. When I turned my back he rushed into me and tried to regain that same position. I pushed him right out of the paint again, but this time without letting him spend any time there.

At this point I was still playing prison-ball, but apparently for him, it had gone further than that. He squared up with me and yelled, “Push me like that again!” It’s then that I realized he was actually really quite perturbed.

I tried to diffuse the situation without just turning my tail and running and said, “Just stop, quit trying to be tough.” This is something you say to a guy when you think he is just posturing. Well, apparently I read him and the situation wrong, because he punched me right in the face, twice.

I was really caught off guard and of course wanted to salvage a little of the tough-guy appearance (which was rather inane at this point, because I had just been punched in the face and wasn’t planning to do anything about it). I said something like, “Is that it?” and went back to playing basketball. Within a couple minutes the yard was closed. As I walked toward the yard exit a “lifer” (a prisoner who has a life sentence) said to me, “Just keep your mouth shut.”

I replied, “Why, am I bleeding?” Because I was.

His response was, “Not literally, I meant don’t say (obscenity)!”

“Oh yeah, of course, I know that,” was my reply.

I knew what was coming and it wasn’t going to be fun. I was going to be placed on “TRO” (Temporary Restrictive Order) pending an investigation, which is basically getting thrown in the hole. And depending on what they saw from the cameras and what they felt like doing, I might be losing my job, getting kicked out of Culinary Arts School, and spending quite a bit of time without privileges, possessions or much time out of my cell (45 minutes per week).

Right before this all transpired, I remember thinking my life was going just about as good as it could be for a member of the Utah Penal System. I had recently moved over to the housing unit where I had wanted to be since I arrived in Gunnison and I was hoping to do the rest of my time there. I was in the same section as my friend and with other like-minded individuals looking to make the most of their time.

Everything was getting better, and then I got punched in the face.

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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