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Behind Bars: Prison offers unique opportunity to make the most of your time

By Brian Wood, Behind Bars Columnist - | Feb 13, 2017

My cellie and I were watching the evening news report, and the newscaster said he gave the morning commute a D-minus due to a storm rolling in. Without missing a best, my cellie said, “Well that settles it; I’m not driving anywhere tomorrow.”

I thought that was pretty funny, but it also made me think about the unique lifestyle that is prison life.


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There are very few of the distractions and time-consuming chores here that most people in the outside world encounter in their daily lives. I don’t have much of a commute to get from one place to another. The longest it takes me to get anywhere I need to go is about five minutes. I think I used to spend a couple hours driving each day.

I don’t know exactly how much time I would spend doing things like shopping, preparing food, eating or doing normal chores, but in here, it is very little.

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I spend a few minutes on Monday night filling out a commissary order, and the next Monday it is delivered to me. And as far as my breakfast, lunch and dinner goes, those are prepared by someone else and also delivered. Laundry, same thing; I just put it in a bag one night, and it comes back the next. The laundry workers even call out my name and throw me the bag so I don’t have to walk downstairs to get it. Even showers are shorter since there are always other prisoners in line.

My point is very little time is dedicated to one’s basic daily tasks. Prison life can be easy in that regard.

I don’t have access to a cell phone or the internet, so there are simply more hours to fill in a given day. This can either be a negative — as boredom goes hand-in-hand with many prison stays — or it can be viewed as an opportunity.

I can’t think of a scenario in the outside world in which I could dedicate 13-plus hours, out of 15 waking hours, to tasks of my choosing — of course my choices are somewhat limited.

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I’m up at 6 a.m. and asleep by 9:30 p.m., and six days a week I am busy for at least 12 of those hours each day and often more either at work (where I read books in various subjects and create curriculum), in school (in Snow College’s Building Trades program) or writing.

Lately my only breaks are on Sundays when I’ve been watching football or nights when a BYU basketball game is on TV. More often than not, I write letters during games. I do play a couple of games of ping pong per week and, when I can find someone to play, I manage to get a game of Scrabble in about every other week.

Other than that I am keeping my nose to the grindstone and feel I am doing what I can to take advantage of the unique opportunity prison life offers. It’s not fun, but feeling like I am making the most of my time, and that has its rewards.

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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