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Man Kept at Rikers Island without Trial Commits Suicide
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Kalief Browder

Summary: The charges against Kalief Browder were dropped after he spent three years at Rikers three years ago.

Kalief Browder committed suicide at 22. He was sent at 16 years old to Rikers Island for stealing a backpack, an accusation that Browder adamantly denied, even turning down plea deals that would have released him immediately. Browder ended up spending three years in the jail until the charges were dropped from a lack of evidence. Of the three years he spent in the New York City complex, nearly two were spent in isolation.


Browder’s case became an example of the broken criminal justice system after he was written about in The New Yorker magazine. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to reduce inmate populations and clear out backlogs in the courts. De Blasio has also eliminated solitary confinement, where inmates are locked alone in a cell for 23 hours a day, for 16 and 17 year olds. Prolonged isolation at this age has damaging effects on their mental stability.

When Browder was released from the jail, he tried to start over by earning a high school equivalency diploma and enrolling in a community college. He made sure he has obtained his diploma before The New Yorker article went public so that he could show that he had done something with his life. Even with these attempts at a normal life, Browder was unable to recover. He spent most of his time locked alone in his room and avoided large groups. His paranoia grew. He feared being attacked on the subway. He had to check every window at night to make sure they were locked before going to bed.

He had attempted suicide several times in jail and had been beaten by inmates and correction officers. The mental abuse was too much for Browder to overcome. He was hospitalized in a psychiatric ward last Christmas, throwing out the television because he was afraid it was watching him.

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