Erin L. Castro, PhD is an Associate Professor of Higher Education and Co-Founder/Director of the University of Utah Prison Education Project. Caisa E. Royer, PhD, JD is a Postdoctoral Fellow with the Research Collaborative on Higher Education and Associate Direct of the University of Utah Prison Education Project.


 Our world has grown so very much, so very fast. We can no longer just live for ourselves. It is each person's responsibility to teach the next generation what they need to live well: be respectful, kind, compassionate, successful, happy, and a productive citizen. "If all you do is all you've ever done, why would you expect anymore than what you've already gotten?" We want people to realize it's okay to want more and to  know it IS possible, when we help each other. 




Breaking Barriers Utah was developed from my experiences going in and out of prison, watching people I cared about fall into being a statistic. These re-offenders myself included often were unemployable and homeless. Some did not know how to live life alternatively. I walked out of prison many times with nothing but a check and the belongings from the commissary. I did not know how to live without drugs and crime and all that hell that comes with them. It was not until someone inspired me and guided me and gave me something to look forward to that I became teachable. I know the path I took and I know what barriers I had to break and continue to fight today so I want to share that with others. My story is not unique, many of us live in the same cycle let Breaking Barriers Utah show you a new way to live. 

Marquita S. Valdez 

The cycles that keep us bound to bad patterns are reinforced by a broken system. When I went to prison for DUI Negligent Homicide, I was shocked at how the criminal justice system was set up for people to fail. I had come from the world of academics, where my professors and peers encouraged me to dream big, to reach for my dreams. In prison, I was told to be small, to be complacent, to be the criminal that my number suggested. I saw a huge disparity between the person I knew I was and the inmate guards thought I was. People who are incarcerated are humans who have feelings and hopes and dreams of fears, not just numbers. Each person coming out of prison has tremendous potential to become their best selves. Through mentorship, community and social support, and by breaking patterns, each person who has been formerly incarcerated has an opportunity to thrive and live a life where they dream big and reach their goals.

Lindsy A. Floyd