Kalief Browder, who recently committed suicide after spending three years at Riker's Island without being convicted of a crime.
This past weekend, Kalief Browder, having served three brutal years imprisoned at Riker's Island, took his own life
. Beaten and starved and placed in solitary confinement for over two years, the 16-year-old Browder who went into prison for a crime he did not commit was not the same young man who was unceremoniously released without being convicted 1,000 hard days later.
As New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio and presidential candidate Rand Paul offered their condolences to Browder's family, the truth about what is happening at Riker's Island is so ugly that it is hard to believe. Browder was not that one guy who got lost in the system. Far from it.
Currently, at Riker's Island, at least 400 people have been imprisoned for over two years without being convicted. Half a dozen people have actually been waiting for over six years inside of Riker's without being convicted of a crime. A staggering 1,500 inmates have waited at least a whole year—some imprisoned for crimes that wouldn't even have sentences for this long if they actually were convicted.
Browder had no criminal record when he entered Riker's accused of attempting to steal a backpack. Mind you, according to an interview Browder did with Marc Lamont Hill before his death, the backpack wasn't even actually stolen by anyone, but he was accused of attempting to steal it, and he consistently denied having any part in the incident until the day he could no longer take the brutality of this cruel world we live in.
What must it do to a man's psyche to wait and wait and wait for a chance at justice, only to languish in a notorious prison overrun with abuse? Sadly, we know what it did to Browder. For the next man, the effect may be equally debilitating, but be expressed in an altogether different way.
It's called the "justice system," but those two words don't really seem to belong in the same sentence. It is a system, yes, but what brother Kalief Browder experienced, and what the 1,500 inmates in this prison alone who have waited years for a chance to have a fair trial have experienced, is not justice.
Call it what it really is—the injustice system, the New Jim Crow, modern slavery—but don't call it justice and don't call it an accident. This system was built on purpose and it is a very real emergency for those men and women who are being held without trial for years on end. Everything in New York City should stop so that these people, these citizens of our land, can have some semblance of justice—if that's even possible. Pardons may even be called for.
Whatever the case, the new plan of Mayor De Blasio to fix the problems of Riker's Island over the next 10 years simply isn't good enough or fast enough for those who are suffering right now as you read these words.