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Beyond Bars: Brian Wood recounts his final moments as a state prisoner

By Brian Wood/Beyond Bars Columnist - | Jan 9, 2018

My cell door slid open at about 4 a.m. on Jan. 2. It would be almost 8 more hours before I would be a free man, but after almost four years, that was nothing — the moment had finally arrived.

I said goodbye to my cellie, and he wished me luck. It was a different experience to say goodbye since it would likely be forever.

After leaving what’s called the “section,” I was escorted with two other inmates from my housing unit to what’s called “intake.” Once there we were put into holding cells with inmates from other housing units, where we waited for some time and then we were “stripped out.” After being thoroughly checked and shackled up, the 12 of us were packed tightly into two SUVs.

Some prisoners were on medical transport, some were heading to county jails and some of us were being released. There were two others prisoners in the vehicle with me who were being released.

As you could imagine, the prisoners going home were a bit more talkative than the prisoner heading back up to the hospital to hear his new cancer diagnosis or the prisoners who were headed to unknown county jails.

The other two excited prisoners had a long conversation to which we were all privy. It moved around a bit, but there was a predominant theme, and that was drugs. They talked about drugs they had been doing in prison, the best way to get drugs in prison, the legalization of marijuana in California and wanting to go there, and all about ways one could get high legally or use drugs and not get caught while on parole.

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Without a job or apartment, going home is a daunting idea

It was sort of sad to hear their plans and it almost shocked me to hear them planning their criminal exploits, especially because there were two officers in the vehicle hearing all that was said.

When we arrived in Draper we were unshackled and stuffed into a very small room with more than a dozen other prisoners. We waited like that for over an hour before there was movement.

I did not envy the first prisoners to get called out of the group. The federal marshals were there to re-shackle them and take them elsewhere. It was especially unfortunate for the prisoner who had no idea he was being picked up rather than going home.

Shortly after, a van from Beaver County Jail arrived to pick up six inmates and our waiting room became a little more comfortable.

About an hour later, the prisoners who were set to parole, myself included, were led up a hallway. We were then led right back down the same way, and then up again.

The level of organization made it seem like we were the first inmates to ever be released.

We finally entered a room where the staff spoke to us. They called roll, handed us our property, and told us to go talk to some staff members who were waiting for us at tables. We were provided with an address for the parole officer in our area and told to go there immediately upon release.

Not five minutes after entering that room, we were directed to follow an officer so we could obtain a state ID.

As we walked behind some dilapidated buildings through the loading area, I thought about being fortunate to have done my time in Gunnison rather than at the Draper facility.

After visiting the DMV satellite office at the facility and getting some bad news about all the fees I owed before I could get a driver’s license, we went back to the room where we had received directions.

When we were told to throw our “prison whites” and put on real clothes, the reality of leaving really set in.

After getting dressed I was handed an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper, which had my prison ID printed on it. I had to show it at three checkpoints before I was off prison property and free … free at last!

Brian Wood, of Layton, pleaded guilty to nine felony charges for offenses from 2011 to 2014, including counts of burglary, drug possession and prescription fraud. He served four years in the Utah State prison system before being released on parole on Jan. 2, 2018.


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