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Behind Bars: It’s not ideal, but I’m grateful for the life I have now

By Brian Wood, Behind Bars Columnist - | Jan 30, 2017

Well Christmas is over, and to all the people who told me to do the best I can to have a Merry Christmas — considering my circumstances — I want to say the amendment isn’t necessary; I’m doing great. I am happy and healthy and honestly believe I will have a more fruitful life due to this experience.

It’s true the life I have now in no way resembles the one I had. But it’s the one I have, and I’m grateful for it.

I could compare my situation to my Christmases as a kid. I remember wanting more but being content with the way things were. I even grew to be excited for the new pair of socks I knew were coming. My parents wouldn’t spend much money on gifts, but I don’t ever remember feeling cheated at Christmas.

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What I do remember is my dad picking a family in need and him having me go sneak money onto their doorstep and leave it anonymously. I believe the lessons being taught through that experience enriched my life more than whatever gratification I would have received by amassing presents comparable to the neighbor children. Though, as a child, I don’t think I fully appreciated it.

“Another year down!”

That was the celebratory phrase I heard last year on New Years, but this year I heard a few prisoners echo, “They can’t make us do that one again.”

For me, I can now say, “I get out next year.” This time last year I had written about reaching a couple milestones. I was a year older and had less than 1,000 days left. I just had another birthday (though I didn’t tell anyone, as it is customary to receive a beating on one’s birthday in prison), and by the time this is printed I will have less than 500 days left. If you’re wondering how that math works out, it’s because I received a 4-month time cut last year for completing the substance abuse program here.

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As I spoke with my friend and mentor in visiting today about the possibility of receiving another time cut for either completing Building Trades or the possibility of getting my restitution paid off, or both, I found myself wondering if I have enough time left to accomplish everything I want to before I go.

If the year plays out like the last, then I may only have one year left. And if the stars align, I will have less than that.

If you told me right now I could go home in half the time as long as I did it in Davis or Weber County Jail, I would only agree for the sake of my son, but I wouldn’t be thrilled about it. Doing time in one of those facilities as opposed to Gunnison is like the difference between the prison and a halfway house or a halfway house and freedom.

I’m sure I’d adapt and make the best of it, but I feel for state prisoners doing their time there.

I believe I have a fulfilling life at the moment, and with any change, a measure of pushback is natural. Don’t get me wrong, I would choose to go home tomorrow, but freedom is still an abstract thought.

So when my friend was suggesting, it is almost time to start putting out feelers for career opportunities on my behalf, my thoughts focused on the life I have here and the goals I’ve set for my prison stay. Even in prison life goes on.

And while this isn’t my ideal situation, there are plenty of good things I can yet take from this experience. 

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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