Top New Jersey 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 a person remaining on parole once released from prison.
However, some N.J. State Parole Board employees are pushing to put Trenton, N.J., community activist Daryl Brooks back in prison for his failure to admit guilt.
This demand on Brooks by parole employees to admit guilt is the very admission top Parole Board officials said is not required for released parolees.
A top Parole Board executive, when responding to a Philadelphia Tribune inquiry in late June, responded “No” to a question about guilt admission as a parole release or continuance condition — a response affirmed by another top Board executive last week.
Brooks, a 6’5’’ man with an affable personality, maintains his innocence since his 1995 arrest on improbable sex assault charges, through his evidence-deficient 1998 trial, three-year imprisonment and during the during a decade on parole.
Yet, when Parole Board employees arrested Brooks this May, they charged him with violating conditions of his parole, citing his failure to admit guilt during counseling 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’ observing how a sex offender who [allegedly] received little counseling-session treatment stalked some children in a park outside Trenton.
Brook’s May arrest forced him to spend his rent money on bail resulting in his eviction.
In bashing Brooks for parole violation Board personnel also barred him from the Internet.
That Internet ban shut down Brooks’ top-rated “Today’s News N.J.” blog.
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.”
The Parole Board declined comment on Brooks’ case citing privacy regulations, one official said last week.
The Parole Board didn’t require admission of guilt when initially releasing Brooks from prison.
Brooks, who regularly campaigns against drug dealing, violence, mass incarceration and governmental corruption, enjoys far flung support from diverse entities including Occupy The Hood N.J. and the New Jersey Tea Party.
Rabbi Gordon Gellar of Margate, N.J., who possesses a law degree and has analyzed Brooks’ conviction, said Brooks’ case is a “gross example” of the justice system gone awry.
“It is ludicrous to demand a confession,” Gellar said.
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, N.J., 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 the daughters of a drug dealer targeted by Brooks’ anti-drug activism.
That 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.
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 which “ruined the life of a remarkable individual” by making him a life-long sex offender that blocks things like employment opportunities.
Brooks is not alone in enduring Kafkaesque predicaments from parole authorities.
Pennsylvania parole authorities, for example, have denied Philadelphia-convicted prisoner Wendell Caldwell parole nine times during his 25-year imprisonment allegedly 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 an “Open Letter” sent to two critics of Pa.’s parole system that included a former Pa. governor.
“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.”
That ex-governor, George M. Leader, co-authored an insightful critique of inefficient parole practices this year that included an account of Pa. parole authorities holding one inmate for 100 additional days after his parole due to that inmate’s inability to pay a $13.70 prison fine.
That “bureaucratic nightmare” cost Pennsylvania taxpayers nearly $10,000, the Leader critique stated.
Brooks said a Board contracted counselor from New Jersey’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 supporter Harold Fleming, a retired mental health worker, criticizes the guilt admission demand.
“Here’s a good man trying to contribute to society.”
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.