Visiting Utah State Prison Reveals That The “Known Prisoners” Are Merely Normal People With Friends And Family.

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Visiting Utah State Prison Reveals That The “Known Prisoners” Are Merely Normal People With Friends And Family.

Yoomin Jang, Writer

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On Nov. 6, a group of students in Ms. Lloyd’s Sociology class visited the Utah State Prison to meet with three women prisoners to find out about how socialization impacts an individual’s behavior. Located in Draper, the Utah Department of Corrections attempts to oversee and regulate sentenced criminals in the State. The detainees were chosen based on their progress in rehabilitation so as to create a protected environment for the students.

The first inmate described her reason for imprisonment as “anger.” She didn’t have the foggiest idea of how to express the feeling, so she started taking drugs and fighting others. She says that she used to consider winning a fight as an honor for herself. With regards to drugs, however, it wasn’t the case. She was a heroin addict and frequently fought to steal money for more drugs. These repeated actions resulted in the conviction of physical assault, theft, and drug abuse. Even after her imprisonment, she continued to show aggressive behaviors on others, only to add more years to her sentence. The years in prison taught her the importance of weighing positive and negative consequences before making a decision.

The second inmate introduced herself as a thirty-one-year-old mom with three kids. Her appearance was very contradictory considering her physical traits. She had missing teeth and multiple tattoos, opposed to her smart-looking impression and beautiful, curly blonde hair. She got into a toxic relationship in middle school, received bad influence from her friends, and began smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol.

Throughout her teenage years, she had multiple sexual partners and ended up with kids from different fathers. She became a drug addict, especially from alcohol and methamphetamine. When her third baby was born, she was breast-feeding him, which resulted in getting the baby addicted to drugs. She lost her baby eventually. She seemed to have a very hard time recalling this painful memory. This remorseful incident of mother and baby made her convicted of Child Endangerment as a result.

As for students, these stories were very difficult to listen to. They realized that the ladies were normal people with family and dreams, not serial killers or psychopaths. They no longer felt intimidated by the prisoners but were rather encouraged to ask more friendly questions.

“I’m low-key a geek,” the first lady said as she chuckled. This was followed by the guard’s humorous comment, “It is not low-key.” She is interested in computer programming and desires to get an Associate’s degree later on. By taking a programming class in the facility, she is currently working towards her goal. The second inmate, meanwhile, talked about her experience as a substitute teacher and her dream to become a teacher in the near future. She is also attending the educational system during her years. Being in prison hasn’t stopped their passion; rather has it them an opportunity to focus on what they truly want. 

One question was significant that prompted the ladies’ inconsistent reactions, “How is life in prison?” One articulated about several restrictions such as how to dress, when to get up, when to rest, what to do, when to shower, what to have or not, etc.

They need to get up at 5:30 a.m., lights on by 6 a.m., ready to go. Many students frowned at it knowing that they struggle to get up for school every morning. For their daily diet, the prisoners have four menus that repeats every month. The other depicted the facility as “another planet” where they do not take many things for granted, for example, their cell phones. The biggest disadvantage without technology is that the inmates can’t Facetime their family or talk to them on a daily basis.

As a last-minute question, Ms. Lloyd asked, “What is going to keep you from going down the same path?” The inmates were very cautious to address their response. The first lady says, “Setting up a goal and a plan. Focusing on who you want to be, and having the courage to stay out of temptations.” She added that her family and children, which she feels extremely grateful for, are the inspiration to develop self-love and compassion. The other one concluded with her opinion that “alcohol is the gateway drug,” because even one drink can get someone down the wrong path. She believes that being grateful for things around us and making good choices can keep herself from the same, regretful path.

Walking out of the building, the students felt a huge mixture of emotions: intimidated, terrified, startled, frightened, and scared. They, on the other hand, felt amazed, interested, respectful, and admiring that the ladies were living through the harsh conditions instead of making it worse. They definitely were inspired and hopeful that the ladies can make it to the end. 

In South Korea, there is a well-known saying, “What is learned in the cradle is carried to the grave.” The bad propensities that children learn in their youth can be difficult to get rid of; the habits are more likely to remain with them for the rest of their life. This field trip can teach that one’s behavior should not easily be judged, not knowing their personal background. No one is completely flawless. Rather, people should try to become a better person each and every day, focusing on their goals and dreams. 

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