A couple of years ago, I hosted a podcast discussing the prison system in America, and the mistreatment that the prisoners receive there. During the podcast, I began to discuss Kalief Browder. Kalief Browder was a 16 year old black male from the Bronx, who was arrested by the NYPD on his way home for allegedly stealing a bookbag. Kalief proclaimed his innocence, but was still sent to prison. He was taken to Rikers Island, which is an adult facility. If you have ever watched a single episode of Law and Order, you know Rikers is not where you want to be.
Kalief had several court dates that were cancelled for various reasons. His bail was set at $3,000, but unfortunately the Browder family didn’t have the resources to bail Kalief out of prison. When they were finally able to get the money, his bail was denied. Kalief spent 1,000 days in prison without an actual conviction. 800 of those 1,000 days were spent in solitary confinement. Kalief was finally released in June of 2013, and he began publicly speaking about the abuse he endured while in prison. His speaking appearances began to shed light on what really goes on within prison facilities on a larger scale, and the media began to get involved. Kalief explained how he was jumped on by a gang of teens while the guards watched. He even discussed how the guards would beat and starve him for days.
It was noticeable to family and friends that Kalief was not the same person that he once was. Even Kaleif realized that he was no longer the same. Solitary confinement for a few days is enough to cause a person to have a mental breakdown, so one can only imagine what 800 days as a teen could do. Kalief had trouble sleeping at night, and would often drift off and have active flashbacks of the vile treatment he endured while in prison.
Kalief’s mental state caused him to hang himself in June of 2015. Since then, Kalief’s story has been a national discussion. His documentary recently aired on Spike TV, which will ultimately bring more awareness to the prison system in the United States.
How many other Kalief Browder’s are in prison being tortured for a crime they didn’t commit? The state of New York’s “justice system” needs to be completely wiped out and revamped. Stop and Frisk is in full effect in New York, and it allows the police to stop you and search you at any given time for no reason at all. 87% of Blacks and Latinos are stopped and frisked in New York. It’s noted that more young Black men were stopped by the NYPD in 2011 than there are young Black men that actually live in New York city (Huffington post). New York and North Carolina are the only states that charge 16 year olds as adults. That sounds like a setup for failure in life. 16 year olds do not have the same maturity level as an 18 year old.
It seems that Kalief’s story makes him a martyr. He was failed by the system like so many others. It seems the less fortunate always pay the ultimate price for crime and being poor. It’s a triple disaster if it’s a person of color. What can we do? How can we demand reform from our Government when new private prisons are being built regularly? Private prisons are being encouraged!
Those that are incarcerated are still humans. They are already caged, but if you treat them like animals they will certainly behave as such. It’s time for police and prison reform. We owe that much to Kalief.