Kalief Browder, a Bronx man who was held for three years on Rikers Island without trial for an alleged robbery in 2010, committed suicide on Saturday (June 6). Taken into police custody at just 16 years old, Browder recounted an experience that included two years of solitary confinement, starvation, and abuse by prison guards and fellow inmates. In a profile published for The New Yorker after his case was dismissed in 2013, Browder discussed the lasting effects his time inside would have.
“People tell me because I have this case against the city I’m all right,” he said. “But I’m not all right. I’m messed up. I know that I might see some money from this case, but that’s not going to help me mentally. I’m mentally scarred right now. That’s how I feel. Because there are certain things that changed about me and they might not go back.”
While in solitary confinement, Browder attempted to end his own life on numerous occasions, including an instance in which he tried to use his bedsheets to hang himself from a light fixture in his cell. Upon his release, he attempted to commit suicide again, after just six months of regaining his freedom. After being treated in several psychiatric institutions, Browder hung himself from an air-conditioning cord in his Bronx home. His lawyer, Paul Prestia, echoed his sentiments of the imprisonment having lasting effects.
“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,’ he told the Los Angeles Times. “Being starved, and not being taken to the shower for two weeks at a time … those were direct contributing factors. … 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 led New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to reform the solitary confinement laws for city inmates, raising the legal age to 21 years old.
Photo Credit: ABC News