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Utah wife, mom shares positive side of federal prison

Posted at 9:57 AM, Jun 03, 2024

SALT LAKE CITY — On a sunny, spring day in May, Portia Louder of Saratoga Springs revisits a landmark in Salt Lake City that changed the trajectory of her life more than nine years ago.

"The last time I was here, I felt very low, and this place seemed like a very big, scary place," she reflected.

Louder is referring to the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah. She hasn’t been back there since February 16, 2015, when she was sentenced to federal prison for mortgage fraud.

In the early 2000s, Louder said she became involved in illegal real estate deals to help pay for a prescription pill habit that she couldn’t shake. However, Louder soon found herself paying a different price when she learned that she would be spending seven years locked away from her husband, six children, and the life she once knew.

“That was the moment of clarity for me,” she explained. “Everything shifted…just my whole reality of how could I have been such a fool? How could I have thought that money mattered at all?”

Louder carried these thoughts with her as she began serving part of her sentence at a federal prison in California, with around 1,000 female inmates who didn’t greet her with open arms initially.

At first, she questioned whether she could make it through the next several years. She eventually found a sisterhood inside prison as she acclimated to her new reality and believes that helped her stay the course.

“I was just surprised at the confusion that I had before I went to prison…that people in prison are just bad and did bad things…not recognizing my own, you know, lack of understanding," she said. "Most people in prison have suffered in ways that I could not comprehend.”

Louder invested a lot of her time writing down these types of lessons on paper, while visualizing a new life for herself and family once released, which happened in about five years instead of seven.

Once she returned home, she began working in drug treatment and shared stories about what happened in prison. Those stories received positive feedback from those she worked with, so Louder began writing them down at night.

While she didn’t expect it, her writing evolved into two books that are available in prisons across the country.

“I didn’t want to pretend like I didn’t go to prison, because my whole life changed, and there were so many good things that happened," she said.

She wants people to remember that if they’re going through a rough time in life, prison or not, there is so much beauty waiting on the other side of pain.