Prisoners find freedom in work
July 25, 2008
Having spent a decade behind bars, Scott Bolf has never logged on to the Internet.
"I’ve seen it on TV," Bolf said, adding that he has "never had a cell phone."
The 40-year-old prisoner now belongs to an inmate work crew that helped landscape this week at the Norwegian Outdoor Exploration Center in Oakley.
"I’ve been in and out of prison since 1989," Bolf said. "Drugs are the root of all evil right now. Once you’re an addict, you’re always an addict."
Physical labor five days a week, however, helps him stay clean and sober as he finishes up incarceration at the Summit County jail, Bolf said.
"You’ve got to work your way into this," he said about the job while resting in the shade. "What we have here is Mother Nature, and this is just the greatest."
The inmates are non-violent offenders who require minimum security.
James Waller, 40, is a repeat substance-abuse offender serving 15 months for cocaine possession.
"This is a privilege," Waller said about the inmate work program. "You need to stay out of trouble and meet all of your classroom requirements."
Working helps him prepare to stay off drugs when he returns to society this fall, Waller says.
"It’s something different every day," he said as Oakley bustled around him. "We do campgrounds, rodeo grounds and county work in Coalville and other cities."
Without his job, Waller said his last months in jail would be unbearable.
"You feel great at the end of the day when you look around and see what you did. Every day is spent productively and I don’t have any more time to waste," Waller said. "In jail, you get no variety and it’s very easy to have vacant space that you need to figure out."
Working inmates are known as the "blue crew" because of navy T-shirts they wear that clearly identify them as prisoners.
"I got lucky enough to get chosen to come out here," 23-year-old Chris Latham said.
Latham is serving a year in Summit County for a probation violation for testing positive for heroin use.
"I was on the run for about a year causing havoc. They caught me and I was dirty," Latham said. "It all escalated from prescription pain pills."
He is nervous about reentering the community when he gets released next year.
"There is a restitution I think I owe to the community," Latham said. "I come to a lot of realizations out here working, sweating and feeling the air, which in my addiction cycle I never would have recognized."
Inside jail is "a false reality," he said.
"You come out here and you get to experience real life, even when you’re incarcerated, that’s why I consider it a blessing," Latham said. "Your emotions and your feelings can definitely get the best of you in there."
He is looking forward to striping streets with the crew’s new paint sprayer.
"I’m so used to this now that when it comes to the weekend, I’m house happy and don’t know what to do in jail," Latham said. "This helps me remember what I should change and think and do about myself in order to be successful and clean when I get out. I want to maintain a regular lifestyle like however many billion people there are on the Earth who do function without drugs."
Randy Cressall was first locked up in 1995.
"I did eight years for $205," Cressall said about a robbery he was convicted of participating in.
Sadly, addicts are misunderstood by society, he explained.
"People have to understand the power of addiction," Cressall said. "It’s really, really tough."
His voice cracked and eyes watered as he retold his prison nightmares.
Cocaine was his drug of choice.
"Somebody talked me into trying to use a needle and once I stuck a needle in my arm, it was like I jumped off a cliff," he said. "My life has never been the same."
Norwegian Outdoor Exploration Center founder Tom Cammermeyer complimented the inmates on the pride they take in their work.
"This is so awesome," said Cammermeyer, who introduced the prisoners to four students from North Summit Elementary School. "They meet the inmates and they learn the value of making life choices. Isn’t this better than getting stoned every night?"
Student Randin Pentz said the inmates told him "don’t do drugs."
"They said they did drugs and now all of their furniture is screwed to the ground," elementary student Rio Butters said.