85%. That’s the number of inmates at Rikers Island who, like Kalief Browder, have not even been given a trial. On the anniversary of Kalief’s passing, we take a look further into his story and how that reflects on all the other Kalief Browders currently held in prison by the US Justice System.
Kalief Browder, a 16 year old Bronx child, was accused of stealing a backpack in the Spring of 2010. He had no prior arrests and authorities had no evidence against Browder, yet for the three years Browder faced attacks from inmates and abuse from guards while imprisoned on Rikers Island.
That State tried to offer Browder a plea deal towards the end of his sentence, telling him he could face another 15 years in prison if he lost the trial, but an innocent Browder couldn’t see confessing for something he never did in the first place, saying, “I knew deep down in my heart I didn’t do it, so I didn’t feel comfortable saying I did it. I felt like I was done wrong and something needed to be done about this. I feel like something needs to be said. If I just cop out and say that I did it then nothing’s done about it, no justice is served.”
While in prison, Browder attempted suicide six times. Five out six times he never received proper mental health treatment following. Instead, Browder recounts being assaulted from the guards when they caught him attempting to take his life, instead of helping him.
“They cut me down, they threw me on the bed. They gave me a lot of punches and stomped me on the bed. They took my sheets, my books, my covers and starved me for about two or three trays,” Browder explained.
This kind of senseless abuse runs rapid at Rikers Island and thankfully the city has moved to shut down the prison monopoly, instead disbanding it to smaller bureau-wide city jails. Still, how many more Kalief Browders are out there?