Kalief Browder was never convicted of any crime. But that didn’t stop him from being sent to Rikers Island when he was only 16 years old… all because he was accused of stealing a backpack.
Kalief never stood trial for stealing any backpack, nor for any crime, but he spent three long years at the New York City jail complex, with nearly two of them in solitary confinement.
The New York Times reports that “In October 2014, after he was written about in The New Yorker, his case became a symbol of what many saw as a broken criminal justice system. Mayor Bill de Blasio cited the article this spring when he announced an effort to clear the backlogs in state courts and reduce the inmate population at Rikers.”
Inmates say that violence is an ever-day part of life in Rikers Island. Sometimes that violence comes from other prisoners, and other times it comes from the guards. Recently, surveillance video was released of a guard teaming up with inmates to beat the who had been locked behind Rikers Island walls.
The two surveillance videos that document all of this were originally obtained by The New Yorker. They clearly show Kalief, who was 16 at the time, being beating by guards and inmates alike. All the while, he had been locked up in Rikers for allegedly stealing a backpack that he was later proven to have never stolen.
Browder had been arrested back in 2010 for the backpack accusation, and he spent the next three years at Rikers Island just waiting for his “speedy trial” that he had been guaranteed (sort of like the guarantee of being innocent until proven guilty, no cruel and unusual punishment and so on).
While awaiting trial, without ever having been convicted of a crime, the New Yorker’s Jennifer Gonnerman documented that he had been constantly subjected to beatings from prisoners and guards alike.
In the first of the two videos obtained by the Times, we see an incident from 2012, where Browder can be seen walking through the solitary confinement unit, both handcuffed and escorted by a deputy. But in spite of being completely restrained, the guard snaps and throws him to the floor, and grinds his face down into the ground.
The second video the Times obtained is from even earlier, back in 2010, shortly after Browder was arrested. The video documents Browder being beaten by a large group of inmates, while two guards looked on and did nothing to stop the massive assault.
Watch both videos in the clip below…
Browder was eventually released in 2013. All charges against him were dropped. He never stole the backpack in the first place, and eventually the courts had to drop all charges… but not before he was repeatedly tortured in prison for years first.
He later told Gonnerman in an interview that after the incident where the guard beat him, he was given more time in solitary confinement to punish him for nothing more than being beaten while handcuffed.
Yesterday, the New York Times reported that “For a while, it appeared Mr. Browder was putting his life back together: He earned a high school equivalency diploma and started community college. But he continued to struggle with life after Rikers.”
But on Saturday, Browder committed suicide at his parents’ home in the Bronx.
The Times reports that Jennifer Gonnerman, the author of the article in The New Yorker, said in an interview on Monday that “it appeared he was never able to recover from the years he spent locked alone in a cell for 23 hours a day.”
He was jailed for three years while awaiting his “speedy trial”. Now Kalief is dead and it was the SYSTEM that killed him!
Help tell Kalief’s story. Nothing will change until we force it to change!
(Article by M. David and Jackson Marciana)