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Behind Bars: Don’t lose focus after prison release

By Brian Wood, Behind Bars Columnist - | Dec 17, 2017

As I get ready to leave this place, I feel for the people who are stuck here.

Well, some of them.

I don’t feel so bad for those who are unrepentant. There are plenty of prisoners who are doomed to spend their lives in here because of the sum of their sentence. Others have made coming in and out of prison a lifetime pursuit. Unfortunately, there are plenty of prisoners who identify with being a criminal and plan to get right to it as soon as they are released.

Then there are the prisoners with good intentions but little capability. I’ve been here long enough to see many prisoners get out and come back.

I had a cellie who has been back three times since he left here in 2015. He claimed he’d never come back, but I could see the writing on the wall as he would look for reasons to break rules. Some red flags are obvious, like prisoners who use drugs in here but claim they won’t on the outside.

Guys like that clearly have no chance.

Sometimes the signs are less apparent: excuse-making, not following through with commitments, exaggerating, etc. Obviously, nobody’s perfect, but I’ve run across a few guys in here who don’t display these small presages, and I’d be shocked to ever see them in prison again.

I’ve only personally witnessed one case where I was surprised to hear a prisoner violate parole, but it turned out that had more to do with the parole officer than the parolee.

I believe I’ll be a success story, and I think it’s fair to say I have a lot of people who believe in me, too. Recently, though, my confidence has stirred.

Let me tell you about my friend, Ben.

We played football together in high school, hung out at his house between classes in college and played “Mario Kart,” and we worked at a job together. He was one of a few friends who attended my bachelor party. At one point we were close. Shortly after I got married — in the Salt Lake City Temple — he left on a late LDS mission. We lost contact after that. You can imagine my surprise when I ran into him here in prison.

Ben is the case that worries me. He is highly intelligent, quite charismatic and very capable. The fact he became a drug addict, robbed a bank and came to prison isn’t the issue. I know as well as anyone how a drug addiction can lead someone to crime.

The issue is this is his second time here. He left here after a five-year stretch and, by all accounts, he appeared to be the guy everyone would have bet would never be back. Yet, here he is. He works in the seat next to me at our job in education, and while it’s nice to see a friendly face, it’s also not. He hasn’t made excuses no matter how much I’ve probed for them. He messed up…again.

He compared it to fitness. There are plenty of people out there who know first-hand the benefits of staying in shape but, still, they let themselves go. They quit exercising, make poor eating choices and eventually all the bad decisions add up. His advice is to not lose focus.

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.


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