UPDATE: The family of Kalief Browder has released a statment:
Mayor Bill DeBlasio has also released a statement:
“Chirlane and I are deeply saddened by the death of Kalief Browder. Yesterday, the Browder family lost a beloved son and brother. Kalief's story helped inspire our efforts on Rikers Island, where we are working to ensure no New Yorkers spend years in jail waiting for their day in court. There is no reason he should have gone through this ordeal, and his tragic death is a reminder that we must continue to work each day to provide the mental health services so many New Yorkers need. On behalf of all New Yorkers, we send our condolences to the Browder family during this difficult time.”
Kalief Browder, the young man who spent three years on Rikers Island but was never convicted of a crime, committed suicide on Saturday.
Browder, 22, was arrested when he was 16 for allegedly stealing a backpack, but was never convicted of a crime. A combination of his family being unable to afford the set bail and a beleaguered justice system kept Browder in prison for three years.
Of the three years on Rikers, Browder endured about 400 days of solitary confinement and relentless police and inmate abuse and brutality. Browder even attempted suicide.
When Browder was finally released from prison in 2013 he received an outpouring of support from politicians and celebrities among which were Jay-Z, Rosie O’Donnell, and Rand Paul.
However, despite this support and a substantial case against against the city, Browder told The New Yorker that his ordeal had left him a changed man.
“People tell me because I have this case against the city I’m all right. But I’m not all right. I’m messed up,” Browder told The New Yorker. “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.”
Jennifer Gonnerman, The New Yorker Reporter, who wrote both pieces on Browder, recounted her visit to Browder’s family following his death.
“His parents showed me his bedroom on the second floor. Next to his bed was his MacBook Air. (Rosie O’Donnell had given it to him.) A bicycle stood by the closet. There were two holes near the door, which he had made with his fist some months earlier. Mustard-yellow sheets covered his bed. And, to the side of the room, atop a jumble of clothes, there were two mustard-yellow strips that he had evidently torn from his bedsheets.
“As his father explained, he’d apparently decided that these torn strips of sheet were not strong enough. That afternoon, at about 12:15 P.M., he went into another bedroom, pulled out the air conditioner, and pushed himself out through the hole in the wall, feet first, with a cord wrapped around his neck. His mother was the only other person home at the time. After she heard a loud thumping noise, she went upstairs to investigate, but couldn’t figure out what had happened. It wasn’t until she went outside to the backyard and looked up that she realized that her youngest child had hanged himself.”
Browder’s death has caused a stir on social media, with both Rosie O’Donnell and Rand Paul and many others sharing their grief.