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Beyond Bars: First vacation after prison leaves me feeling inspired

By Brian Wood, Beyond Bars Columnist - | Jun 18, 2018

Most prisoners dream about specific things they want to do when they get out. I was no different. I expressed these in an article I wrote before I left prison.

First, I wanted to completely submerge myself in a large body of water, and secondly, I wanted to be outside, all by myself, without any cameras, other people, or anything. I had gone swimming at a pool when I had first been out, and I have been alone plenty, but I had yet to mark those things off my to-do list until last week on my vacation to Lake Powell.

It was remarkable to get away from the city and enjoy the outdoors and summer nights. In prison, the latest anyone is allowed in the yard is 7:30 p.m. and cell doors are locked at 9 p.m., so there’s very little stargazing being done. And at night there’s nothing to see out the window, except for flood lights or a brick wall. I really missed being outside at night. On this trip, I spent a good bit of time, all by myself, just looking up at the stars.

And then there was the water! We were out in the middle of the lake taking a break from wake surfing when I took my opportunity. I dove off the boat and let my momentum carry me deep into the lake where there was little light, and the water was a bit cooler. I swam up and away from the boat, so when I popped up all I could see was the shoreline quite a ways in the distance. As I treaded water, I could feel the sun on my face and my shoulders and I realized I was smiling. This was the feeling I had dreamed about many times while I was locked up. I felt free, so free.

And as amazing as all that was, there was something that topped it: the people. I don’t think I can gush enough about how impressed I was with the culture of inclusion, courtesy, and positivity that existed with this group. Everyone went out of their way to make me feel welcome, but they weren’t just nice to me (the new guy). Everybody was so respectful and gracious to each other. There were about 50 people there all interacting and getting along. When there was clean up or work to do, people helped out and got it done.

Prisoners are always going on and on about respect, but it has nothing to do with actually respecting the other prisoners. When prisoners say to other prisoners that they need to have respect or be respectful, what they actually mean is don’t do things that someone might interpret as disrespectful. What they do respect is the threat of violence behind someone taking offense.

I always point out that I met some good people in prison, but being around such an abundance of good people makes me realize just how small that ratio is in prison. Positive people tend to attract each other. That’s the way it was in prison, and that’s the way it is out here too. I didn’t just have a great time on my vacation, I was inspired.

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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