Kalief Browder, who at 16 was jailed without trial and subsequently spent nearly three years at New York City’s Rikers Island where he endured abuse by guards and served nearly 800 days in solitary confinement, committed suicide at his home in The Bronx on Saturday. He was 22.
Arrested and charged with stealing a backpack in May 2010, he was unable to post bail and was transferred to the notorious 400-acre facility on New York’s East River. Browder maintained his innocence throughout his incarceration and refused plea deals he was offered as his trial, stuck in a massive backlog, was repeatedly delayed. He was finally released when the charges were dismissed on May 29, 2013.
His story was first recounted last October by New Yorker staff reporter Jennifer Gonnerman in her piece, “Before the Law.” “A boy was accused of taking a backpack,” the subhead reads. “The courts took the next three years of his life.”
If you haven’t read Gonnerman’s piece, you should. Also check out Gonnerman’s subsequent follow-ups which include exclusive surveillance footage from Rikers of Browder being beaten by guards and fellow prisoners.
In the obituary Gonnerman wrote for The New Yorker yesterday, his lawyer Paul Prestia, said:
“When you go over the three years that he spent [in jail] and all the horrific details he endured, it’s unbelievable that this could happen to a teen-ager in New York City. He didn’t get tortured in some prison camp in another country. It was right here!”
Below, Gonnerman discusses his case and his death on Democracy Now!.
(Photo: Screencap courtesy of Democracy Now!)