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Behind Bars: Enjoying the last bit of time in prison before release

By Brian Wood, Behind Bars Columnist - | Dec 25, 2017

I’m enjoying the last little bit of my time. Being able to work out for an hour in the morning and an hour and a half in the afternoon is coming to an end. My release is scheduled for Jan. 2, 2018; however, there’s no guarantee I leave that day. Most prisoners get out when they are scheduled, but the last couple prisoners in my housing unit who had release dates lost them.

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One prisoner had his “date pulled” because there weren’t beds currently available in the halfway house to which he was headed, but he left three weeks later. Another prisoner, who is still here, had his date pulled because he was federally indicted for something that happened around the same time as the incident which brought him here. Days before he finished his sentence, he received notice he would be staying longer; though, he had an idea this was a possibility. We had planned a little going away nacho “spread.” We ate it with him as scheduled despite the bad news.

An elderly man who eats at my table told me his story. His date was pulled some years ago. He looks just like Santa, so that’s what we call him – plus he organized and spent his own money for a Secret Santa program for prisoners in Draper.

Before I was born, Santa was given a life sentence, which at the time was 30 years. Santa and his family counted down those 30 years, a day at a time. He was even able to have home visits with his family the last few years of that sentence. Days before he was scheduled to be released, he was called into the captain’s office and told he wouldn’t be going home the following week – he was home. He was informed life sentences were now figured to be 99 years and his had been changed to match.

There are so many sad stories in prison. An argument can be made that it’s easy to be thankful in prison. I’ve been surrounded by many individuals who have it much worse than I do. In fact, I was just warned about losing that gratitude. A former parolee and current prisoner recently shared with me his experience on parole. He went from being thankful to be out of prison and grateful for all of the things he could do, to being frustrated with parole, and angry about the things he couldn’t do. He says that paradigm shift was at the root of his failure. He violated parole and was sent back to prison. His next parole hearing will be in 12 years (rough).

I have much to be grateful for. I really like Thanksgiving, a day set aside to celebrate gratitude. This year’s Thanksgiving was one I’ll remember. I spent it with friends. We ate well, watched football, and played basketball. It was nice. I’m not as big a fan of Christmas out there and find it convenient that I am scheduled to miss it this year. The only reason I’d want to get out any sooner is so that I’ll know sooner that my release is really happening.

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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