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The perplexing predicament confronting Daryl Brooks could confound writers Albert Camus and Franz Kafka, two authors acclaimed for their works about individuals subjected to surreal forms of injustice.
Brooks, a community activist in Trenton, New Jersey, is facing a Kafkaesque return to prison because some NJ state parole personnel charged him with committing a parole violation that top NJ Parole Board officials contend is not actually a violation.
Top New Jersey State Parole Board officials acknowledge that ‘admission of guilt’ by a person is not a condition for either a person’s release from prison on parole or for a person remaining on parole once released from prison.
Yet, some parole personnel are pushing hard to put Brooks back in prison for his failure to admit guilt, despite top Parole Broad officials having said such an admission is not required for released parolees.
A top Parole Board executive, when responding to a news media inquiry in late June, responded “No” to a question about guilt admission being a condition for parole release or parole continuance. The Board’s executive director recently affirmed that response.
Brooks is not alone in enduring such Kafkaesque predicaments from parole authorities.
Thousands of persons across America either on parole or seeking parole encounter arbitrary and too often extrajudicial actions by parole personnel everyday, resulting in reincarceration or continued incarceration.
Brooks, a 6’5’’ man with an affable personality, has maintained his innocence since his 1995 arrest on improbable sex assault charges, through his evidence-deficient 1998 trial, his three-year imprisonment and during a decade on parole.
However, when Parole Board personnel arrested Brooks this May, they charged him with violating conditions of his parole, citing his failure to admit guilt during counseling which the Board forced him to undertake a few years ago despite years of infraction-free parole.
That arrest, curiously, occurred days after Brooks issued a press release that criticized failings in the Board’s forced counseling, following Brooks’ noticing how a sex offender who [allegedly] received little counseling-session treatment had later stalked some children in a park outside Trenton.
The Parole Board’s website states that the goal of its sex offender supervision “simply put…is to prevent further victimization.”
Brook’s May arrest forced him to spend his rent money on bail for release from jail, resulting in his eviction from his home.
In bashing Brooks for his supposed parole violation, Parole personnel also barred him from the internet.
That internet ban shut down Brooks’ top-rated “Today’s News NJ” blog that republishes news articles and carries commentaries from other writers.
That ban also blocks Brooks from searching for employment that now widely requires online submission of job applications.
“The possibility of going back to prison for a crime I didn’t do is terrible,” Brooks said during a recent interview.
“It is like some Parole people are out to destroy me. I feel this is a form of slavery,” Brooks said.
“Most of the parole officers know I’m an activist and they say it’s the hierarchy behind this…parole people objecting to my activism.”
The Parole Board declined comment about Brooks’ specific case, citing privacy regulations, one official said recently.
New Jersey State Parole Board Executive Director David W. Thomas, declining to directly address Brooks’ case, said “our parole officers talk with treatment people,” speculating that this officer/counselor consultation may have produced a “decision” about guilt admission for treatment purposes in instances involving sex offenders.
But Thomas did state that the Board has no requirement that parolees “accept responsibility” for their crime.
Interestingly, the Parole Board didn’t require “admission of guilt” when initially releasing Brooks from prison.
Executive Director Thomas said Brooks cannot receive copies of a lie detector test that parole personnel told Brooks contributed to their decision to cite him for violating parole.
“They said I needed a lie detector test since I won’t admit guilt. They said I failed the test. I asked for a copy and they said no. They asked me about having a Facebook page and I don’t have one,” Brooks said.
There is reason to suspect that he didn’t even fail the lie detector test at all, and that this may explain the Board’s unwillingness to give him a copy of it.
“The test guy asked me if I watched YouTube on how to defeat a lie detector because he couldn’t get any reading that I was deceptive,” ays Brooks. “I’ve never watched anything about defeating a lie detector.”
Daryl Brooks, who regularly campaigns against drug dealing, violence, mass incarceration and governmental corruption, enjoys far flung support from diverse entities including Occupy The Hood NJ and the NJ Tea Party.
Rabbi Gordon Gellar of Margate, NJ, who possesses a law degree and has analyzed Brooks’ conviction, said Brooks’ initial conviction is a “gross example” of the justice system gone awry.
Gellar, who worked for 12-years as a chaplain in a federal prison and respects the ideals of the American justice system, said Brooks’ case fits into America’s “dark history of injustice.”
Trenton, NJ police and prosecutors claimed Daryl Brooks masturbated in public – nude from the waist down – while holding a bottle of Brandy on April 19, 1995.
Those authorities found nothing fishy with many disturbing facts.
Brooks’ alleged crime took place in daylight on a busy street inside a then bustling North Trenton public housing project directly outside the window of a police mini-station.
Yet, no one saw this lewd act except two young girls – suspiciously, they were the daughters of a drug dealer targeted by Brooks’ anti-drug activism.
The drug dealer’s daughters provided the only evidence producing Brooks’ jury verdict conviction.
Police couldn’t or didn’t produce any other eyewitnesses to Brooks’ act despite scores of people occupying the three dozen-plus apartments overlooking where Brooks reportedly masturbated at that housing project where Brooks, then a biblical college student, grew-up.
Delonte Harrod, who authored an examination of Brooks’ conviction, said he talked to one of the jurors at Brooks’ trial who said the two young accusers appeared “coached” in their testimony and “most” of the jurors deemed Brooks guilty before hearing Brooks’ defense – primarily alibi witnesses, including a respected minister.
Perplexingly, jurors acquitted Brooks’ of sexual assault charges involving one of the two girls but convicted him of assault charges on the other girl despite both girls allegedly being in the same place at the same time.
“This happened in an open area…Somebody else would have seen it but the only testimony was the girls!” Harrod said.
“Personally, if Daryl was a sex offender, they usually commit crimes like this again,” Harrod said. “As far as I know, Daryl hasn’t come close to doing something like this again.”
Since Brooks regularly assailed Trenton political corruption before his arrest, Rabbi Geller believes Brooks’ political enemies exploited that suspicious arrest to “shut him up” with incarceration, an action which “ruined the life of a remarkable individual” by making him a life-long sex offender, a ruling that blocks things like employment opportunities.
Rabbi Gellar called the admission of guilt demand against Brooks by NJ Parole Board personnel “ludicrous.”
Brooks said a Board-contracted counselor from NJ’s University of Medicine and Dentistry ejected him from her counseling earlier this year following his refusal to admit guilt – an admission Brooks said parole agents told him he didn’t have to make.
Brooks’s supporter Harold Fleming, a retired mental health worker, criticizes the guilt admission demand.
“I don’t think it’s right to ask him to acknowledge guilt and then punish him if he doesn’t. This is like China or North Korea with government therapy,” Fleming said.
“Here’s a good man trying to contribute to society.”
Offensive parole practices usually reach public attention in cases involving political prisoners like Native American activist Leonard Peltier and Puerto Rican nationalist activist Oscar Lopez Rivera – both allegedly mistreated by federal parole officials.
Earlier this year a former governor of Pennsylvania, the state adjacent to New Jersey, co-authored an insightful critique of inefficient parole practices that contribute to expensive prison overcrowding.
That critique, co-authored by George M. Leader, included an account of Pennsylvania parole authorities holding one inmate for 100 additional days after his release on parole due to that inmate’s inability to pay a $13.70 prison fine.
That “bureaucratic nightmare” cost Pennsylviaia taxpayers nearly $10,000, Leader’s critique stated.
Leader’s critique prompted an “Open Letter” from Philadelphia-convicted Wendell Caldwell, who criticized Pennsylvania parole authorities for rejecting his parole requests nine times during his 25-year imprisonment, reportedly telling Caldwell to finish his full 30-year sentence.
“I was told to max out for refusing to admit to a crime which I did not commit,” Caldwell recounted in his “Open Letter” sent Leader.
“I have earned over 70 certificates for courses and programs…including college credits,” Caldwell stated in that Letter. “I saved the life of a correctional officer during the worst prison riot in Pennsylvania history.”
Edward Africa, a member of Philadelphia’s MOVE organization who is serving 30-100-years for a suspect cop killing conviction, was recently denied parole again despite only having one prison infraction in 34-years – refusing to cut his dreadlocks, which he and other MOVE members initially said would violate their religious beliefs.
“The bias is very obvious and they don’t try to hide it, just as it is in the Pennsylvania courts. The law is ignored with MOVE people,” Africa wrote in a recent letter to a reporter. “Others have the same charges or worse and get parole.”
Linn Washington, Jr. is a founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He lives in Philadelphia.
COMING IN SEPTEMBER
A Special Memorial Issue of CounterPunch
Featuring recollections of Alexander Cockburn from Jeffrey St. Clair, Peter Linebaugh, Paul Craig Roberts, Noam Chomsky, Mike Whitney, Doug Peacock, Perry Anderson, Becky Grant, Dennis Kucinich, Michael Neumann, Susannah Hecht, P. Sainath, Ben Tripp, Alison Weir, James Ridgeway, JoAnn Wypijewski, John Strausbaugh, Pierre Sprey, Carolyn Cooke, Conn Hallinan, James Wolcott, Laura Flanders, Ken Silverstein, Tariq Ali and many others …