Kalief Browder

By Emily Fitch

Thursday, June 6 marked four years since the death of Kalief Browder, who died by suicide at the age of 22. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, Kalief’s story went on to become one of the clearest examples of the flaws inherent in the American justice system. At 16 years old, Kalief was arrested and charged with the alleged crime of stealing a backpack. With his family unable to make bail, he was jailed on Rikers Island where he awaited trial. Prosecutors delayed the hearing for his case time and time again, stretching out his stay at Rikers over three years. Two of those three years were spent in solitary confinement. All the while, he maintained his innocence. While incarcerated, Kalief survived abuse at the hands of inmates and correctional officers. He attempted suicide on numerous occasions, and stated that some correctional officers even goaded him to go through with it. In 2013, the charges against him were dropped and he was finally able to go home after three years imprisoned for a crime he was never found guilty of committing. Kalief’s family hired an attorney to file a lawsuit against the NYPD, the District Attorney, and Department of Corrections. After his release, he experienced ongoing symptoms of depression. In an interview with The New Yorker, he stated: “People tell me because I have this case against the city I’m all right. But I’m not all right. I’m messed up. I know that I might see some money from this case, but that’s not going to help me mentally. I’m mentally scarred right now. That’s how I feel. Because there are certain things that changed about me and they might not go back.” In 2015, Kalief took his own life. His case drew significant media attention for the way it highlights the psychological effects of solitary confinement. His attorney has argued that “Kalief was deprived of his right to a fair and speedy trial, his education, and, I would even argue, his entire adolescence.”

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