In 2010, at the age of 16-years-old, Kalief Browder was accused of stealing a backpack. Police found no evidence to support the claims, and the accuser’s story changed more than once.
From that point on, Browder’s life to a horrific turn, leading to turmoil and a major case of injustice. The 16-year-old teen was wrongfully imprisoned. Even after his release, three years later, there was no way to bring back the life he once had as a youngster.
The story of his wrongful imprisonment and the tormenting life he lived after his release are documented in a Jay Z and Harvey Weinstein production, “TIME: A Kalief Browder Story.”
That night, young Browder was taking to Riker’s. There he was held for three long years, even though he was never convicted of any crime. Prosecutors did offer the teen a plea deal. However, Browder was determined to go to trial to prove his innocence.
His trial never happened. Instead, for three years, Kalief Browder was physically abused by both guards (click here for surveillance-camera image) and other prisoners (click here for surveillance-camera image).
Browder also told his family that, in addition to the beatings, guards would often starve him.
In surveillance-camera video clips, Kalief Browder’s abuse is fiercely intense. At one point, he described a group of inmates pummeling and kicking him after he had punched another inmate who he said spit in his face earlier.
In addition to the physical abuse, Browder experienced grave mental abuse. In the three years he spent on Rikers Island, nearly two of them were spent in solitary confinement. In the small cell he was confined to for the majority of the day, Browder had tried to kill himself multiple times.
In June, 2013, Browder was finally released from Rikers and the case dismissed. One reason for the dismissal was that they no longer had contact with the witness who accused Browder of stealing – their only evidence. Soon after his release, he received the equivalent of a high school diploma and enrolled in a nearby community college.
Nearly two years after he was released, in June of 2015, Browder committed suicide in his Bronx home. He was 22. Venida Browder, his mother, holds up a picture of her late son.
After his death, many people began to fight for criminal justice reform, including his brother Akeem Browder, who spoke to a crowd protesting Rikers.
A man walks by a mural in Queens honoring Kalief Browder. Since his death, Mayor Bill de Blasio launched a reform to help speed up cases, though it has drawn criticism from Browder’s family. “There’s no change, period,” said Akeem Browder.
More than a year after Browder’s death, Jay Z has paired up with The Weinstein Company to document his life and the deplorable injustice he dealt with.
Harvey Weinstein (l) and Jay Z discuss “TIME: The Kalief Browder Story” during a press conference. The six-part documentary series debuted on March 1, 2017.