Behind Bars: Deciding how to make the most of my remaining time in prison

Monday , April 10, 2017 - 5:30 AM1 comment

BRIAN WOOD, Behind Bars column

I have been asked several times by other prisoners why I’m still in Gunnison. What they are really asking is why I haven’t applied to go elsewhere and utilize my gate-pass.

When prisoners get closer to their release dates, they become eligible for a few additional jobs working outside the walls of the prison. There are not many of these jobs, but the ones that exist operate out of Draper. There are also a number of county jails that house state inmates and take advantage of this security clearance, i.e. “road (cleaning) crews.”

I haven’t seriously considered going this route until recently.

RELATED: Behind Bars: Will work for food — or not

There are only two prisoners that I have exchanged personal contact information with and have made plans to associate with upon my release. Recently, these two friends have both moved on. One went to Draper to work a gate-pass job in hopes to earn enough money to purchase a vehicle upon release. (The gate-pass jobs in Draper pay prisoners considerably more than most jobs inside the prison and especially in Gunnison.)

My other buddy left just the week after to one of the halfway houses. He was fortunate to be selected for a program that allows a prisoner to start their parole early while they work as a cook at the halfway house.

My two friends’ recent exodus has got me thinking about what comes next and how I want to do the rest of my time.

I feel like I have it pretty good right now.

For a minute the other day, I thought about how my job at education is not so different from work in the outside world.

Just like millions of people in offices across America, we filled out our NCAA March Madness tournament brackets. I often forget about being a prisoner in the office environment we have in the education department. I also really value the fact I have my own desk. It feels more like my own space than the bathroom I sleep in and share with another prisoner.

 

RELATED: Behind Bars: With its low success rate, parole is a scary proposition

This week was Spring Break, and I was able to catch up on all my letter writing. (As always, I welcome letters from anyone and everyone, and I promise to write back.)

Just the other day, I was asked if I wanted to be the tutor for the Snow College culinary arts program, a position which was recently vacated by my friend who was selected to the halfway house cook program.

I’ve heard multiple people say he had the best job in Gunnison. I could see why some think so since that prisoner gets to eat real food four times a week — and considering most of a prisoner’s income is spent on improving their menu, the net earnings are pretty darn good.

I had to weigh that against my job at education, the Snow College building trades program I’m halfway through and my one-day-a-week gate-pass volunteer job at the dump. I concluded I would still take the tutor position with the deciding factor being: I thought it might allow me to follow my buddy to the halfway house cook program, and thus, parole earlier.

Well, it turns out I took too long to make a decision and lost the opportunity, but I’m OK with that. Of course, I’m still putting my name in the hat for the cook job at the halfway house, and I’d take it in a second if it were offered to me.

However, I’m not an ideal candidate. They prefer prisoners who are here on white-collar crimes.

I’m hesitant to make any change because I figure I’m doing just fine at the moment. Right now, I’m aware of all the un-pleasantries of my current prison situation, so “why rock the boat?” Things could be worse.

The money involved in Draper’s gate pass jobs is tempting, but for now I’m going to finish my year in the Snow College building trades program. After that, I will re-examine my options.

I want to make the best use of my remaining time. There may even be programs available I am unaware of. (If anyone knows of something along these lines I have not mentioned, please let me know.)

Although Utah doesn’t have near the opportunities for work and intermediary programs that other states do, it may be prudent for me to try and find something that can ease my transition into the real world.

Please write me at: Brian Wood, 217763 CUCF, P.O. Box 550, Gunnison, UT 84634

Brian Wood, formerly of Layton, is an inmate at the Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison. He pleaded guilty to nine felony charges for offenses from 2011 to 2014, including counts of burglary, drug possession and prescription fraud. He could spend up to 35 years in prison, depending on parole hearings.

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