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Beyond Bars: Post-prison reunion with son something to cherish forever

Monday , January 15, 2018 - 5:15 AM13 comments

BRIAN WOOD, Beyond Bars columnist

As a newly released prisoner, I was required to go to the local adult probation and parole office and “check-in” with my PO (Parole Officer). Once there, my PO went over the conditions of my parole agreement.

I will be required to check in when my parole officer orders it, get a mental health and substance abuse evaluation (and attend treatment if ordered), pay a monthly supervision fee as well as start paying off my restitution, submit to drug testing, be home by 10 p.m. – for now — and stay away from alcohol. He also explained a little about communication, but it was all common sense.

I stated my sentiments that everything sounded simple enough, and then made a comment about all the parolees who don’t make it. This is when he told me there were two types of parolees, “Those who get out and go right back to it, and those who wait a little longer.”

Beyond Bars: Brian Wood recounts his final moments as a state prisoner

I was too busy asking him questions about supervised visits with my son (which I should have known had nothing to do with him) for his comment to really sink in at that time. Looking back, I don’t know if he was implying that those were the only two types of parolees or, if there could be some who never break the rules. Either way, what matters is I believe there’s another category.

After meeting with the parole officer, I headed down the street to get a driver’s license. Thirty minutes and $285 later (reinstatement fees for substance abuse violations), I possessed a little more freedom. Now that my civil objectives were met, I was ready to eat some real food.

My friend took me to Atlantis Burger in North Salt Lake. There he informed the owner of my situation, explaining that this would be the first food I’d eaten in the outside world in four years. The cashier suggested that I order the burger with pastrami and feta cheese on sourdough. It was delicious!

All of the food we ordered was great, which I knew it would be. To top it off, the owner came out and, with the utmost sincerity, wished me luck. I think that’s when I really felt like I was in a different world than I had been. In prison, kindness is seen as weakness. There is kindness, but mostly among friends – never with strangers.

My friend and I made some other stops, one of which I’ll talk about later, which would have been the highlight of a wonderful day, had it not been for the best possible ending. Earlier that same day I found out I would be seeing my son at 5 p.m. rather than the next day. This would be the first time I’d seen him in four years.

I was pretty nervous about how this reunion with my son might go. I ran several different scenarios through my head. I thought he might feel a little uncomfortable and be a bit stand off-ish. I prepared myself to accept whatever came. Of course, I also dreamed our reunion might be like the videos of dads returning home from active duty and surprising their kids.

I know for my part I had not earned a hero’s welcome, because it was not my son’s fault that his dad messed up and hadn’t been there for him. It turns out, though, that it could not have gone better. When my bigger, but still little guy saw me, he jumped up and yelled, “Daddy!” He met me at the door and threw his arms around me tight as could be and said, “I’ve missed you so much!”

He didn’t let go for at least five minutes, and I didn’t want him to. That was a moment I’ll cherish forever.

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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