The heart wrenching story of the life and death of Kalief Browder is indelible if you caught it first in The New Yorker in 2014 in a story called “Before the Law: A boy was accused of taking a backpack. The courts took the next three years of his life.”
The essentials of the case are this: Browder had been charged with grand larceny among other charges for taking a car on a joy ride.
A reasonable sounding judge gave “him probation and ‘youthful offender’ status, which insured that he wouldn’t have a criminal record.”
But, the story said “because Browder was still on probation, the judge ordered him to be held and set bail at three thousand dollars. The amount was out of reach for his family, and soon Browder found himself aboard a Department of Correction bus. He fought back panic. . . as the bus made its way across a long, narrow bridge to Rikers Island.”
He was 16 years-old at the time.
He would spend the next three years of his life incarcerated in one of the most notoriously over crowded prisons in the country.
In October 2014, said the New York Times 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.”
Browder’s long periods of solitary confinement were defended by the correction’s department as the only way to protect the boy from the adult population which made Browder a frequent target of violence and sexual assaults.
Browder was released when the prosecutor’s “case was found to be lacking any evidence against Browder and the case’s main witness was found to have left the United States.”
After his release Browder was putting his life back together according to numerous sources: He earned a high school equivalency diploma and started community college. He even talked about his experience in a video (watch below).
On June 6th 2015 Browder committed suicide at his parents’ home in the Bronx after a long struggle with PTSD stemming from his experience.
According to Essence: “Browder’s story has been credited with making significant reforms to the criminal justice system. Since his story first appeared in the New Yorker, the use of solitary confinement for juveniles has been banned by federal prisons, New York’s “Raise The Age” policy went into effect making it unlawful for young people under the age of 18 to be tried as an adult. And the #CloseRikers movement scored a huge win when in June of 2017, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio pledged to close Rikers Island for good.”
This settlement is good and all, but ultimately won’t heal the crime that was committed against this boy.
WATCH: TIME: The Kalief Browder Story below.