Kalief Browder has died in an apparent suicide — which was reportedly related to a wrongful incarceration.
At the age of 16, Browder was arrested and charged with stealing a backpack. Although his bond was only $10,000, the teen spent three years at Rikers Island awaiting trial.
While incarcerated, Browder reportedly spent more than 400 hours in isolation. He also claimed he suffered incredible abuse at the hands of corrections officers and his fellow inmates.
As reported by Los Angeles Times, Kalief Browder did not suffer with mental health issues prior to his arrest. However, he “attempted suicide multiple times” during his incarceration.
In 2013, Browder’s criminal case was officially dismissed. Although he was finally freed, the teen said he was “mentally scarred” from the experience.
“I’m not all right. I’m messed up… That’s how I feel. Because there are certain things that changed about me and they might not go back.”
Attorney Paul V. Prestia said his client attempted to lead a productive life following his incarceration. He obtained his GED and just completed a semester of college with a 3.5 GPA. In addition to attending school, the former inmate worked part-time tutoring others who wished to obtain their GED.
— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) June 8, 2015
Although he made great strides, Browder was haunted by the abuse he suffered on Rikers Island. As he was unable to cope, he made the decision t0 end his own life.
As reported by The New Yorker, Kalief Browder was found dead at his parents’ Bronx home. According to his father, the young man hanged himself from his bedroom window using the cord on his window air conditioner.
Prestia said he believes his client’s suicide was directly related to the wrongful incarceration and the abuse he suffered while inside.
“I think what caused the suicide was his incarceration and those hundreds and hundreds of nights in solitary confinement, where there were mice crawling up his sheets in that little cell… Being starved, and not being taken to the shower for two weeks at a time… That was the pain and sadness that he had to deal with every day, and I think it was too much for him.”
Browder’s case brought attention to the backlog of criminal cases in the Bronx, and the length of time suspects are incarcerated while awaiting trial. The case also raised awareness about abuse and violence taking place inside the prison.
Although Kalief Browder has died, his attorney and family hope his story will prevent similar tragedy in the future.
[Image via Shutterstock]