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Beyond Bars: Old prison diet contained plenty slices of humble pie

By Brian Wood, Beyond Bars Columnist - | May 21, 2018

When you are first sent to live in the Utah State Prison, you are locked in a cell for all but one hour on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. And even on your hours out, the only thing to do is go take a shower and walk around in an empty “dayroom.” This period is called R&O, which stands for “research and observation.” It’s ironic, because for the most part, you are completely ignored. Officers walk by your window to make sure you are standing and count you twice a day, and that’s about the extent of their interaction with you.

When I first got to prison, I was only given one orange jumpsuit, and was supposed to get two. Laundry is picked up once a week and dropped off 24 hours later, so I would end up spending laundry day in my underwear. I had used my intercom on multiple occasions to ask for another jumpsuit, and had been told each time to ask the officer at count to help me. I had politely asked each officer on every count for another jumpsuit, and was always told, “I will see what I can do,” “If I remember,” or “I can’t help you.” Weeks passed, and then on one particular laundry day, a voice came over my room’s speaker and said, “Wood, go see the case worker.” Then my cell’s large metal door slid open.

I hit the intercom button in an attempt to communicate to the officers that I did not have clothes, but the voice just came back over the speaker and yelled, “Go to the door and cuff up!” I walked out of my cell and into the dayroom. Two officers were waiting on the other side of the door to handcuff me and escort me down the hall. When they saw me walking toward them in my underwear one yelled at me and said, “Put some (expletive) clothes on.”

I explained I didn’t have any to put on, because my only set was in the laundry. One officer shook his head while the other turned and walked down the hall and came back (not even one minute later) with a jumpsuit (two sizes too big), pushed it through the cuff port and told me to dress.

Once I was dressed and handcuffed, the officer said if he could write me up for being stupid, he would. He couldn’t understand why I “didn’t let anyone know” I needed another jumpsuit. “Next time just say something, don’t be an idiot.”

I gave what I believed to be the only acceptable response, which was, “Yes sir.”

This is the type of experience I’m talking about when I say I just spent four years eating humble pie. I’m not sure if I just got older or if that aspect of the prison experience changed me, but I no longer feel the need to be right all the time, and especially when I know it doesn’t matter.

Still, if anything is going to get me in trouble, it’s my mouth. I’ll probably always struggle to hold my tongue. I’ve been told all my life that I need to think before I speak. Writing gives me that opportunity and I’m thankful for it. I also appreciate the opportunity the Standard-Examiner has given me to share my ideas and give people a glimpse into a world they would otherwise not be exposed to.

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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