Kalief Browder: Man Jailed For 3 Years Without Trial Commits Suicide

Kalief Browder in July 2014. Photographed by Zach Gross

Kalief Browder, a man who had been jailed for 3 years without trial at Rikers Island, is dead after an apparent suicide. He was 22-years-old.

Kalief, whose story was first exposed by The New Yorker last year, was accused of stealing a backpack in 2010. On a Saturday night in May, a 16-year-old Browder and a friend were surrounded by police cars after someone reported that they had committed a theft two weeks earlier. Brown denied the claim and was searched. The police found no evidence of theft, but Kalief was arrested nevertheless.

And so began three years of hell for Kalief.

Browder was kept in solitary confinement for much of his time at Rikers. Security video footage at Rikers island showed two instances of beatings that Browder sustained while imprisoned.

Browder also stated that his meals were withheld while at Rikers and that he sustained many more beatings.

After three years without a trial, authorities dropped the charges against him and Browder was released. But his life would never be the same.

“Prior to going to jail, I never had any mental illnesses,” Browder told HLN in 2013. “I never tried to hurt myself, I never tried to kill myself, I never had any thoughts like that. I had stressful times prior to going to jail, but not like during jail. That was the worst experience that I ever went through in my whole life.”

While at Rikers, Kalief attempted to kill himself six times, according to a lawsuit that he an his lawyer Paul Prestia filed against the city of New York and its police department. He was hospitalised for five days in 2013 after one of these suicide attempt, CNN reports. Browder was a student at a community college in the Bronx and had a 3.5 GPA.

“Every day was a struggle. He lived with a degree of sadness every day since his release,” said Prestia.

Browder’s death has triggered an immense outpouring of grief on social media since his death was announced on Sunday.

Browder’s story lead to a closer examination of the conditions at Rikers Island. The New York Times published a report earlier this year that showed 400 people at the prison who had been jailed for two years or more without a trial.

Kalief Browder’s lawsuit against the city is expected to continue despite his death.

[Photo by Zach Gross/ The New Yorker]