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Inmates leaving jail hope for fresh start

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SPANISH FORK — Two-year-old Alan Martinez peered through the thick glass of the Utah County Jail booking window, the smile growing on his little face.

"Daddy!"

The boy shyly waved at his father, Ricardo Martinez, 25, who was gathering up his belongings and heading out — the first inmate to be released from the Utah County Jail in 2006 and the only inmate to be released Monday morning.

After a month and a half in jail, Martinez was allowed to exchange the blue jumpsuit for a black T-shirt and baggy jeans and get back to his job and family.

"Everybody learns a lot of things (in jail,)" he said before being released. "I expect to not come here again."

The number of inmates released from the Utah County Jail each day varies, a booking officer said. For example, if a judge orders that an individual serve 90 days in the county jail, whenever that time is up, the individual is free to go that morning.

However, the majority of the releases are in the afternoon after court hearings. Then, the family might have posted bail, or the bonds are in place and the inmate can be released.

Martinez was ordered to spend 60 days in jail for providing false information to a police officer. But he only had to spend 40 days there because of good behavior. He spent Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day in a cell, away from family.

"I just want to see him," said his wife, Stephanie. She visited him twice each week but said it was still hard to be apart, especially because she had been taking care of two young children, ages 1 and 2.

"Now's his chance to make a new life," she said.

After a short reunion outside in the rain, the family left, anxious to spend time together, eat good food and open the Christmas presents Ricardo Martinez still has under the tree.

"I feel like I'm special," Martinez said of his status as the first 2006 release. "I get to start a new life, a new year — that's amazing for me."

Markus Gallegos will get that same chance today.

The 19-year-old has spent almost two weeks in jail on alcohol charges, and he said he has done a lot of thinking, especially because he couldn't be with his family for Christmas or New Year's.

"It's kind of depressing," he said, "not being around your family."

It's a hard lesson to learn, but it's one Gallegos says he won't forget.

"This is not a place you want to be," he said. "It's gross. I'd much rather be at home. I don't intend to come back. I have much better things to do than sit here wasting time."

With school starting soon, Gallegos hopes to get back to studying, working and being a productive member of society.

He is also working to get help with his alcohol problem, which is what put him in jail in the first place.

He said the first thing he'll do at home is take a long shower and have a good shave.

" 'Roll up, you're out' — it's exciting to hear those words," Gallegos said. "(Jail) is not a place I want to be."

After seven months in the county lockup, Randy Craft is a little nervous about heading back into society with its dangerous lure of methamphetamine.

Craft, 27, has been in jail 14 times before — all on drug or alcohol-related charges, he said.

"For me, it wasn't depressing," he said about spending the holidays in a holding cell. "It was a learning experience. I don't want to spend another one in here."

Craft completed the OUT program and the life skills class offered by the jail, as well as a 12-step substance abuse program through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He has also been allowed to work in jail industries and has been promised a job upon release.

Over the past seven months, he said, he worked harder than before because he doesn't want to come back.

"Some people have the idea, 'you'll be back in 2 weeks,' " Craft said. But with the help of the jail programs, Craft said he has been clean for nine months. Yet the thought of being on his own without the limitations of the jail is still a little daunting.

"There have been a lot of blocks set up here that I don't want to fall over (when I get out)," Craft said.

He said he's going to avoid his former friends and try to get his own place to start the new year off right.

"I need a new habit," he said. "I don't want to spend next year in here."


E-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com