Beyond Bars: My views on earning, spending money have changed since prison

Monday , March 12, 2018 - 5:15 AM

BRIAN WOOD, Beyond Bars columnist

It’s official: The Utah State Tax Commission informed me of their decision to uphold the denial of my sales license by the Department of Motor Vehicles Enforcement Division. I may reapply when I have completed parole.

My opinions on earning a living and money has changed quite a bit since before prison. Maybe I am just getting older and know I have a lot of catching up to do, but I no longer look at money as the things I can buy with it. All of a sudden, I need to worry about security, something that was a given the past few years.

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I haven’t spent much money since being out. I feel so behind and don’t want to waste anything I get. If I buy a Subway sandwich with a coupon, I still feel like I could have found food for less. Also, I’m used to operating with much smaller amounts. Food was more expensive in prison, so when you did spend money on a meal it was almost like an event.

In prison, you need money for some essential hygiene stuff, but you’re not worried about security. The only bill I had was my $11 a month TV rent, which doesn’t sound like much, but was half of what I made from my job. Other than that, money was primarily spent as a way to eat better. I spent a lot of my money on condiments for the awful food. It never made sense for me to save any money because the amount I would have been able to save would be so small. Once out, I made more money in my first two weeks of work than I did working full time for a year in prison.

However, there are some inmates who try to save for retirement. I had never really thought about it, but I knew a guy who was 53 years old and might be there for life. He figured he had about as many working years left as he did years in which he would not be able to work, so he was saving half of everything he earned and had been doing so since he was 48. When I thought about it though I didn’t have the heart to tell him it’s not going to work out for him. He’s on the use it or lose it plan.

You see, most old folks in prison can’t keep money on their books because of medical expenses. As soon as he has one major incident, it will deplete his savings and after that medical, will take 60 percent of anything that hits his account by way of employment or family sending money. In 20 years, he’ll likely not have either coming in and and he’ll forever be in debt to the state — that’s his reality.

I’m glad that is not my reality. It feels really good to be able to work, provide for myself, and make my own way. Despite the state’s efforts to clip my wings, the Murdock Auto Group has offered me another position within the organization. It’s in the service department and would probably be considered a lateral move, but I think I’ll like it even more.

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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