Brooks 'Brooksy' Hatlen was an inmate at Shawshank State Prison from 1905 to 1955. Although his crime is never revealed in the film, murder may be presumed although he refers to himself as 'an old crook', which may refer to a serious crime due to his lengthy prison sentence. In Stephen King’s original novella, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, Red says Brooks murdered his wife and daughter after a losing poker streak. He was the librarian of the prison starting in 1912, and was friends with Andy. Brooks died after committing suicide in 1955, aged 73. Brooks is portrayed by the late James Whitmore.
Brooks found a crow hatchling who had "fallen out of a nest near the plate shop", and decided to care for the bird and name it Jake. Andy's first day at Shawshank, he sits next to Brooks, before noticing a maggot in his breakfast. Brooks asked for it, and Andy is disturbed, thinking that Brooks means to eat it, but is relieved when he opens his coat and reveals his pet bird. Later that year, Brooks was instrumental in getting Andy his Aljoreno. After it is brought in through the laundry, Marcus places it into Brooks' rolling book cart, and pays him six cigarettes for postage. He wheels it down to Andy, who discreetly takes it.
In 1949, after Andy assisted Captain Hadley in avoiding paying his inheritance tax, Warden Norton appoints him the assistant librarian. Andy finds this surprising as Brooks has never had an assistant in his 37 years as a librarian. Brooks shows him around the dilapidated library, comprised of nothing more than some old books and magazines.. When Andy talks to Brooks about getting funds for a better library from the prison, Brooks is incredulous and thinks it is not possible to do so.
In 1955, Floyd tells Andy and Red that Brooks is holding a knife to Heywood's throat. Andy manages to calm him down, but he is distraught. They later learn that Brooks has been paroled, and that killing Heywood would have been his way to stay in prison. The gang discusses Brooks, and Red says that Brooks has been in prison so long that he is institutionalized.
As he leaves, he lets Jake go free. The prison doors open, and Brooks steps out and takes a bus to his new home. He is astounded by the changes in the world since he was free, and complains that everyone got themselves in a hurry.
He writes a letter back to his friends at the prison, in which he expresses his difficulties adjusting to the outside world, including living in constant fear, and longing to break his parole so they'd send him back home. He ties a rope around the beam, and puts a noose around his neck. He rocks the table, and it falls.
After Brooks died, the inmates would always remember him. His name was brought up by the gang several times. In the prison yard, after Andy was released from solitary confinement, he is approached by Red. While Andy talks to Red about his escape plan, Red brings up to Andy that he "won't make it on the outside because he was institutionalized, just like Brooks was.". When the gang confronts Heywood for giving Andy a rope, fearing that Andy might hang himself, Floyd asks Heywood, "Remember Brooks Hatlen?". And after Red is released on parole, and begins living the fear of not making on the outside, he states in the narration, "Brooks Hatlen knew it, knew it all to well.".
- There was a scene in the script where Red finds Jake's carcass. This was to symbolize that Jake was meant to be caged, just like Brooks.
|“||I never had time to shoot this section of the film, for which I'll always have mixed feelings. The writer in me mourns its absence, because it's among my favorite sequences written. The director in me realizes it's probably just as well -- since it isn't vital from a strictly narrative standpoint, I ultimately would have faced the tough decision of losing it in the editing room to tighten an already long movie. (As William Goldman so wisely observes in his excellent book Adventures in the Screen Trade, sometimes you have to kill your darlings...) The absence of this sequence does put an interesting and different spin on the Brooks/Jake subtext. As Red notes toward the end of the film, "Some birds aren't meant to be caged." As written, neither Brooks nor Jake is that kind of bird; neither can survive on the outside. As filmed, however, Jake can survive, but Brooks can't. In a symbolic sense, Jake now represents Andy and Red. It's a subtle but fairly meaningful shift.||”|
|— Frank Darabont|
- In the novel, Brooks has a college degree in Animal Husbandry. In fact he got the prison library job due to being one of the only few prisoners with a degree.
- In the movie he is also a combination of Sherwood Bolton (since it was Sherwood Bolton who owned Jake while in Shawshank prison in the book) which makes the movie adaption of Brooks Hatlen a composite character