Kalief Browder, the young man who spent three of his teenage years jailed at Rikers Island without a conviction or a trial, has committed suicide. He was 22.

Kalief Browder Suicide

Browder took his own life at his parents home on Saturday, June 6, a little more than two years after he was released from jail. The tormented young man, who had maintained his innocence throughout and after his incarceration, hanged himself and was subsequently found by his mother, reported the New Yorker.

“He was an intelligent and humble young man who had his childhood cut short by New York City’s criminal justice system, when he was unjustly arrested at the age of sixteen and locked in jail for three years,” Browder’s family said in a statement. “After fighting so hard to get out of jail — and then fighting on the outside to restart his life — he ultimately was unable to overcome his own pain and torment which emanated from his experiences in solitary confinement.”

“We ask the public to respect our privacy during this very difficult time, and we pray that Kalief’s death will not be in vain,” his family added. “We ask that the mayor and every public official in New York City take every action possible to ensure that no other person in New York City will ever again be forced to live through all that Kalief endured.”

In 2010, Browder, then aged 16, was arrested for robbery and sent to Rikers Island. He remained at the prison for three years – two of which were spent in solitary confinement – without the robbery charge ever going to trial. During his incarceration, Browder was often beaten and starved. Many times, feeling hopeless about his future, Browder had tried to kill himself behind bars.

“In solitary confinement they control your food and how much food you get,” Browder explained to the Huffington Post in 2014. “If you say anything that could tick them off in any type of way, some of them — which is a lot of them — what they do is they starve you. They won’t feed you, it’s already hard in there because if you get the three trays that you get every day you’re still hungry because I guess that’s part of the punishment.”

Since his release two years ago, Browder enrolled in community college and tried in earnest to reclaim his life following his lengthy prison stay. However, he found himself in and out of mental health facilities after continued attempts to end his own life, and was taking anti-psychotic medication.

“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,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “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.”

 

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