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It’s Time to End Special Parole

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Haddiyyah Ali Columnist
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Yusuf Khadafi Al Basir Mu’Min, formerly Daniel Riles II, was released from prison on January 20th, 2022 after fifteen years of incarceration and thirteen years of solitary confinement. He did his time. In fact, he did all of his time. 

Despite this, Yusuf was placed on what is called “special parole” upon his release. Someone on special parole can be re-incarcerated for an infraction as minor as running late to a meeting with their parole officer. This harmful practice is a tool used to extend the crushing arm of the Department of Corrections, increase recidivism, and further traumatize our formerly incarcerated kin. 

Although Yusuf maxed out his sentence, he self advocated for placement in a halfway house to ease his transition back into society as he spent 13 years of solitary confinement. During this time, he was subjected to extreme physical and psychological abuse including sexual assault, abusive restraints, and prison staff taunting him about killing Muslim kids as military officers. It took Yusuf and his lawyer months to get approval for halfway house placement despite his well documented trauma endured in prison, and his known material reality as someone who was incarcerated for 15 years.  

When Yusuf was released, he was placed at the Chase Center Halfway House in Waterbury where he asked to stay for 30 days. On Thursday February 17, 2022, just a few days shy of the 30 day mark, no less than 15 to 20 Parole Officers came to the halfway house of only 12 residents to do a room sweep. Yusuf was in his room at the halfway house when he looked up and noticed the small army of officers outside of his room equipped with guns and K-9 units.

After confirming that the officers were there to shake down his room, Yusuf made a reasonable request to observe the search. When this was denied, and he was directed to go wait in the cafeteria, he asked to retrieve his cell phone from his room before they began so that he could contact his lawyer. Without giving any warning or identifying this instruction as a direct order, an officer then gave orders that Yusuf be cuffed and remanded. He was told that he violated the terms of his special parole by disobeying a direct order and using profanity. 

Yusuf has now been reincarnated at New Haven Correctional Center. On March 8th, he had a hearing where the parole board decided that there was probable cause for his alleged violation. He may now have to wait up to 2 months for a revocation hearing to decide his fate. Every day that Yusuf spends re-incarcerated is a day that he is being traumatized for simply asking to observe a search of his own room and belongings. There are over 100 signatures on a petition demanding his release, but even if the campaign to Free Yusuf is successful, his case is just one tragic example of how overuse and arbitrary terms for violation make special parole one of the most violent practices of the DOC. 

Special parole is an extreme post-incarceration supervision that is assigned at the time of sentencing. This means that the decision is made without consideration for a person’s capacity for rehabilitation, their success in programs, or personal growth during their sentence. It is overused against people of color in Connecticut, specifically against Black people who are sent back to prison over special parole violations at disproportionate rates. As reported by the ACLU in 2019, from 2008 to 2018, while the number of people sentenced in Connecticut overall declined by 34%, the number of people on special parole increased by 142%. This reflects over-use, not an uptick in crime. 

In October 2019, a law went into effect that allows the parole board to discharge someone from special parole at any time if they have demonstrated successful reentry into society. While this could and should mitigate the disparities of special parole, formerly incarcerated people who want to access services to increase their chances of successful reentry into society may be hesitant to do so because of increased exposure to the DOC. Several men were arrested at Chase Center Halfway House that day while engaging with services supposedly designed to facilitate their rehabilitation. If Yusuf had not asked to go to a halfway house, he would likely be free today. Using profanity after being re-arrested for “disobeying a direct order” is only criminal under extreme supervision like special parole. These circumstantial violations and the conditions that make them possible only serve to deter formerly incarcerated people from engaging in services that they desperately need. 

If the Department of Corrections and the state of Connecticut want to be invested in formerly incarcerated folks successfully reentering society, we must end the practice of special parole. This extreme surveillance does not serve formerly incarcerated people or our communities. It is past time for the men and women who serve their time to be given the resources, freedom, and support they deserve to build a life after incarceration.  

The time is now to free Yusuf and end the practice of special parole in the state of Connecticut.  

Haddiyyah Ali, 25, is a Connecticut native, mentor, writer, and poet. She co-founded Abolition Ummah, a Muslim-led organization working to improve the material conditions of incarcerated Muslims and fighting for the abolition of prisons and police.

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