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Brian Wood, Behind Bars columnist, on Jan. 4, 2018. Brian was released from prison on Jan. 2, 2018.

There was a terrific program in prison called LIFE (Living Institution Free Everyday). It was far and away better than any other programming I had participated in while incarcerated.

I explained in a previous article how the success of the program was its undoing. There are those in power who do not care to see positive outcomes for inmates; that is not cynicism, it is reality. Fortunately, I was able to take advantage of it before it was shut down.

There was one class I remember quite vividly in which we watched a particular motivational video. I was feeling rather inspired and I remember thinking I could do anything I wanted to do when I was released. I was realizing my unique opportunity, as there is a certain freedom to losing everything and starting over.

Well, fast forward a couple years, and I am no longer incarcerated and am sitting in a sales meeting at Murdock Chevrolet. In that meeting, the presenter played that very same motivational video. It was clearly intended to pump us up to sell cars, and it probably did just that for every one else in the room. But for me, I was brought back to that moment in prison. It’s probably then I knew I would not last here.

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For someone who had just been confined to a small area for years, I really wanted to avoid spending all my time at any one location. I tried to imagine myself working my way through management, but in the end, my dreams, goals, and plans were different. Still, I had to make a living and I owed Murdock my best effort while I was there. I wasn’t actively looking, but I recently came across an opportunity I could not pass on.

I no longer work at Murdock Chevrolet, but I wanted to thank them for giving me the opportunity to get back into the work force and build my confidence. They offered me a job and a landing spot as soon as I came out of prison, and when the state denied me a sales license, they found a different position for me. This was clearly out of my need and not theirs, and in that same spirit, the owner has given me his blessing to pursue whatever I believe is best for me.

I know there are a lot of people rooting for me, and I definitely feel a responsibility to make the most of my second chance at life. I’m taking a little risk with this new job, but I’m not worried about it. I figure what’s the worst that can happen. I really don’t have any fear of going back to square one. The new job is outside sales with a less established company. It’ll be more challenging, but hopefully more rewarding. I haven’t officially started yet, so I’ll save the who and what for another time.

I’m going to Lake Powell for a week, so I’ll likely miss a week of writing. This will be my first vacation in about eight years. I remember being super hopeful for my future when I was in the LIFE program, but my life now is surpassing all my expectations. The perspective I gained in prison is paying dividends. Freedom to do whatever you would like is a pretty amazing thing.

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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