Kalief Browder, 22, who spent three years in a New York jail without a conviction as a teen, took his own life over the weekend. When he was 16 years old, Browder was arrested for an alleged robbery he insisted he didn't commit, and because his family couldn't afford bail, he stayed behind bars at Rikers Island until his charges were dropped in 2013. Browder's story gained a lot of attention when The New Yorker wrote about what happened to him, allowing his story to spark multiple plans for reform. Although he died young, Kalief Browder accomplished so much.
Browder was arrested for allegedly stealing a backpack. During his three years at Rikers Island awaiting a trial, he spent more than 400 days in solitary confinement, allegedly endured beatings from other inmates and guards, and tried to commit suicide multiple times, according to NPR. Browder continued to struggle with mental illness after getting out of jail, telling HLN in 2013: "Prior to going to jail, I never had any mental illnesses. 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."
The story of Browder's jail time without a conviction and his treatment while in jail opened people's eyes to the injustices happening everyday in the prison system. Here are a few of the amazing things Browder's story accomplished during his lifetime.
A Plan To Speed Up The Courts
In April, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Judge Jonathan Lippman announced a plan to speed up the city's courts in response to Browder's mistreatment by the court system. The plan was a part of de Blasio's larger "Justice Reboot," which aimed to modernize New York City's criminal justice system and reduce the number of people incarcerated. Mayor de Blasio wrote in a statement to The New Yorker:
Kalief Browder’s tragic story put a human face on Rikers Island’s culture of delay — a culture with profound human and fiscal costs for defendants and our city. We promised to find ways to improve the quality of justice in New York City and cut down on unnecessary incarceration — and this reform package showcases a commitment from the city, the courts, district attorneys, public defenders, and law enforcement to root out unnecessary case delay.
A Plan To Reduce Violence At Rikers
Mayor de Blasio also announced a plan to reduce violence at Rikers Island in March. Although this reform wasn't specifically attributed to Browder, it came after Browder's story and many others about extensive violence at the jail gained national attention. De Blasio introduced a 14-point plan to decrease what he called a "culture of violence," as well as drug and weapon smuggling, which includes recruiting special teams trained to de-escalate confrontations between inmates and giving all inmates therapeutic and educational programs.
A Lawsuit Against New York City
Browder filed a lawsuit against New York City, the New York Police Department, the Bronx district attorney, and several corrections officers, claiming he was falsely arrested and denied a speedy trial, according to CNN. Paul Prestia, Browder's attorney, told CNN that the lawsuit would continue after Browder's death, so more reform might still come from Browder's story.
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