The tale of Bronx man Kalief Browder‘s trials and tribulations has come to an unfortunate end, this after he was found dead of suicide in his home this weekend. Browder endured a hellish three years on Rikers Island as a teenager over a stolen backpack accusation that he was never convicted for.
As we shared previously, The New Yorker magazine writer Jennifer Gonnerman profiled Browder last fall and shared the young man’s harrowing account of being jailed in one of America’s toughest prison environments. Browder was held in solitary confinement for two years and was beaten by both security guards and inmates as he awaited a trial for the backpack he was accused of stealing.
After his release from prison in 2013, Browder apparently struggled with the trauma he suffered at Rikers and attempted suicide before. Although he had a strong support system around him, the damage Browder suffered proved to be too great.
From the New Yorker:
Last Monday, [Browder’s lawyer Paul V.] Prestia, who had filed a lawsuit on Browder’s behalf against the city, noticed that Browder had put up a couple of odd posts on Facebook. When Prestia sent him a text message, asking what was going on, Browder insisted he was O.K. “Are you sure everything is cool?” Prestia wrote. Browder replied: “Yea I’m alright thanks man.” The two spoke on Wednesday, and Browder did seem fine. On Saturday afternoon, Prestia got a call from Browder’s mother: he had committed suicide.
That night, Prestia and I visited the family’s home in the Bronx. Fifteen relatives—aunts, uncles, cousins—sat crammed together in the front room with his parents and siblings. The mood was alternately depressed, angry, and confused. Two empty bottles of Browder’s antipsychotic drug sat on a table. Was it possible that taking the drug had caused him to commit suicide? Or could he have stopped taking it and become suicidal as a result?
In the piece, Browder’s lawyer called this a bigger case than the Michael Brown situation in Ferguson. While that comparison possibly doesn’t need to be made to illustrate the horrific ordeal Browder suffered, it appears more details of the young man’s time at Rikers will be forthcoming.