06 Oct Public Awareness Panels up and running
Sitting in a Board of Pardons and Parole hearing room, they told their story: Three imprisoned women, discussing what led to their incarceration and their hopes for a better future.
But this was no plea to a hearing officer in a bid to be released from custody. This was an attempt to keep others from following the same path.
The three women spoke recently during a Public Awareness Panel at the Utah State Correctional Facility (USCF) in Salt Lake City. Organized by the Utah Department of Corrections, such panels allow incarcerated offenders to share the decisions that eventually brought them to prison. It also allows them to share the realities of life inside a fence line. They are held at both USCF and the Central Utah Correctional Facility (CUCF) in Gunnison.
Their audience this day was a group of high school students from the Salt Lake City area. They sat respectfully as the three spoke in measured voices about sharing space with dozens of others on a daily basis and the challenges of maintaining family connections while missing milestones.
“Being in prison is hard,” said Korie Wolfe. “It’s not easy to call my daughter on her 16th birthday and tell her I’ve been sentenced to five to life.
“There’s a better life out there.”
Each told of their battles with substance abuse and the impact on their lives. Yet each also emphasized the hope they have that their future will be brighter. They also appealed to the students that if they were struggling with trauma, mental health or with some type of abuse to seek care.
“Just know there is help out there for you guys,” said Wolfe. “Don’t be scared to ask for help.”
The panels have been part of UDC programming for some time, though the program was put on hold during the pandemic. It stayed dormant in Northern Utah through the move from the Utah State Prison. It is now up and running at USCF, according to Lt. Courtney Whitney, who oversees scheduling for the program.
“We hold them twice a month,” said Whitney. “We have room for more requests.”
To schedule a panel at USCF, email UDC-USCFWardensOffice@utah.gov. For CUCF, email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.