Following Jay Z’s support of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposal to shut down Rikers Island, Public Advocate Letitia James is also on board with the decision and wants to name the 413-acre island after Kalief Browder.
At the age of 16, Browder was convicted of stealing a book-bag in 2010. The case never went to trial, leading the Bronx native to spend three years at Rikers. Unfortunately, two of those three years were spent in solitary confinement. Due to the psychological trauma he experienced while incarcerated, the 22-year-old committed suicide by hanging himself from an air conditioner in June 2015.
“We must do everything in our power to ensure that our criminal justice system is fair, transparent and accountable,” James said in a recent press conference, per the New York Daily News.
Reportedly, advocates and law officials attended the meeting in an effort to close the correctional facility. “Rikers is a mass incarceration model that stains everything that it touches,” said former New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman. “Rikers is by any standard a penal colony. It’s a penal colony. It’s a 19th century solution to a 21st century problem.”
In addition to naming the facility after Browder, the plan is to replace the existing site with smaller jails across the five boroughs of New York City. The new locations will be in close proximity to a courthouse. The initiative will take up to 10 years and cost $10.6 billion. Given the national attention that the case has garnered—with a documentary produced by Jay Z—Browder’s family have their reservations about naming the island after him.
“It’s really appreciative and thoughtful,” said his older brother Akeem Browder, 34. “But it’s something we’d have to think over. The people should have this victory…Maybe people will look at the Kalief Island, if they want to dub it that, and remember the tragedy that my brother went through.”
While paying homage to the unfortunate events that took place in Browder’s life after his stay at the infamous correctional facility, Mayor de Blasio remains optimistic on mass incarceration’s future. “Mass incarceration can be ended,” he told worshipers inside Brooklyn’s Christian Cultural Center, reports the Daily News. “It can be ended if we keep driving down crime, if we have the right approach we can end it. And I want to tell you something about mass incarceration. It didn’t begin here in New York City but it will end here in New York City.”