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19 June 2020

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Rayshard Brooks opened up about the struggles of life after incarceration in an interview before his death

Rayshard Brooks opened up about the struggles of life after incarceration in an interview before his death

(CNN)”You get treated like an animal.”

Those were the words of 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks who was shot and killed by an Atlanta police officer this month. Brooks spoke those words in February, just a few months before his death, during an interview he gave to a company called Reconnect, which focuses on fighting incarceration.
The company had posted an ad on Craigslist, looking for people to share their stories about navigating the criminal justice system, and Brooks answered the call.

CNN obtained the 40-minute interview with the help of CNN’s Political Commentator Van Jones, who said a colleague in the criminal justice field entrusted it to him.

He reflects on life behind bars and speaks openly about the struggles he faced after making the “mistake” that put him there.
“I just feel like some of the system could, you know, look at us as individuals. We do have lives, you know, was just a mistake we made, you know, and, you know, not, not just do us, as if we are animals. You know lock us away.”
Brooks told the interviewer he was arrested for false imprisonment and financial credit card fraud. He said his public defender told him he could get 10 years, so he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year in prison.
“I’m like, ‘oh my God, I have kids out here’ … so I’m trying to do the best option I can to be back to society,” he said.
Brooks described being locked up 23 hours a day and told when to wake up and where to go. He said it “messed” with his mental state.
“Going through that process, it hardened me at a point, you know to like, hey, you know, I have to have my, my guard up because the world is cruel, you know, it took me through seeing different things and, you know, in the system you know it just, just makes you harden to a point,” he recalled.
Brooks was critical of the criminal justice system, suggesting it did nothing to help him get out from the under the rock of a prison record. He said he tried to look for a job, but his record caught up with him at nearly every turn.
He said, “You go to filling out your application and you get to this question, ‘Have you ever been convicted of a crime or have you ever been arrested?’ And, you know, you sit in there like, ‘oh my God … ‘I hope this doesn’t, you know, hinder me from getting this job’… Then you finish up the application and you have some employers that come back to you: ‘Well Mr. Brooks, unfortunately, we can’t hire you due to the fact that you’ve been incarcerated or you’ve been … arrested for this and that.'”
His reaction? “Your heart just breaks,” he said. “You put up so much energy, you have so much hope, you’re going out trying to provide.”
Brooks added, “They’re not funding us, you know, they’re not saying ‘hey let’s give him a check … maybe some type of help towards him getting himself back together’ … It’s just a lot of pressure. You know with, you know, just having all of that on your shoulder and on your back … Some people they just can’t deal with it. You know some people say, you know, they’re considering suicide.”
Brooks said he was deep in debt when he got out. He had to pay court fees and restitution fees, plus provide for his wife and children. What he needed most was help from the very system that locked him up.
“I feel like it should be offered, you know, to certainly, I mean, every individual who has been through these things to be assigned to a certain person to help guide, you know, I mean that’s what probation but probation is not there with you every day, like a mentor or something,” he said. Brooks added: “They’re not taking you out to find a job, you have to do these things on your own, you know, and I feel like it should be a way for you to have some kind of person like a mentor assigned to you to, you know, keep your track, keep you in the direction you need to be going … yet I’m out now and I have to try to fend for myself.”
Perhaps the most chilling words from Brooks in the video were these, spoken when he still had hope for a better life: “I’m trying, you know, I’m not the type of person to give up. You know, and I’m gonna keep going until I make it to where I want to be.”

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