Numerous people have said to me, “I couldn’t do prison.” For one, you usually don’t get a choice; and for two, yes you could. People adapt. Life goes on, even in prison. It’s a different life, not the most desirable life, but it isn’t all bad.
Prisoners have hopes and desires, they’re just different than what you’re used to. The things that excite prisoners might not seem like much to you, but it doesn’t make their feelings any less real. Living in prison, like any other environment, causes one to establish a new baseline expectation.
This may be my opinion, but I am convinced my buddy Doug would look forward to the cheeseburger that he would receive every six months much more than the average person looks forward to a major vacation. I know when I was locked down for 23 hours a day and that door would slide open, I was genuinely excited just to walk in a larger space and for a chance to pick out a new book to read that day. When I got a job to pass out indigent supplies to the other lockdown units, I was elated to be out of my cell. My baseline changed again when I was in regular population and I felt the same way about getting to leave the facility to pick up garbage. Now of course, that would sound like a pretty awful way to spend a day. It’s all perspective.
It’s hard to say I miss the lowered expectations, but there are aspects to prison life I definitely do miss. I miss the simplicity of prison. There are very few decisions to be made. But at the same time, your time is more your own. You have very little in the way of responsibilities. I could draw some similarities to people who are wealthy and the security that wealth can bring. It doesn’t buy happiness, but there is one less thing to worry about. There’s something to be said for accomplishment and paying your own way, but no stress is kind of nice too.
Speaking of less things to worry about, I went four years without a cell phone and now it seems I can barely go an hour without checking it. I have six different apps in which I receive messages and two e-mail addresses. It’s hard to explain and it could just be me, but I feel constantly distracted and less able to be present. I am sure I would enjoy life more if I just went without, but my work and social life are both completely intertwined with the damned thing.
Even with all the access to communication, I miss the highly social environment of prison. Loneliness just wasn’t one of the struggles I went through in prison. It’s a much more prevalent issue in the outside world, and one I can’t claim immunity to.
I have a friend that says my worst day out here is better than my best day in there. That may be the case if you were to put them side to side and pick one, but that’s not how it feels when you’re in it. You adapt. It’s not like everyone is just miserable in prison. I don’t think it’s a stretch of the imagination to say I enjoyed my last three months of prison more than I enjoyed my first three months of “freedom.” I think I’m finally finding a balance and am taking opportunities to surpass my new expectations.
But at the end of the day, there is that one thing that drastically tips the scales on the side of the free world. The other day my son hugged me out of the blue and said, “I love you so much dad.” Nothing else can even compare.
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.