Public Awareness Panels operating at CUCF

Choices. Decisions. Challenges. Growth.

Those were some of the topics that incarcerated offenders spoke about recently during a public awareness panel at the Central Utah Correctional Facility.

The panels are designed to help the public understand events that lead to incarceration and the realities of prison life. During the presentations, inmates share their individual stories and answer questions.

In addition to promoting public understanding, the interactions give inmates an opportunity to reflect on their own actions and bad decision-making, while providing a cautionary tale to at-risk youth and others.

The panels were frequent before the pandemic, but were shuttered due to Covid-19 issues. They have recently been offered at both facilities. This was the second panel at CUCF since the program restarted.

“It all comes down to choices,” said Ben Rettig, a member of the panel. “It came down to my choices, not those around me.”

Slowly at first, students from nearby Snow College soon began peppering the three panelists with questions from day-to-day living to philosophical positions. Each of the three took turns answering.

“I have a lot of potential for growth, as long as someone nurtures that,” said Rettig, adding that taking advantage of all the education programs in prison “is huge” in promoting change.

Even so, they all realize there will be obstacles if and when they are released. For Quentin Hurlich, who will spend more than three decades incarcerated, the task at times seems daunting.

“I have never used a smartphone, never been on the internet,” he said. “For me, trying to adapt, it’s going to be a challenge.”