Rikers Island Claims Its Prey: Freed Man Kills Himself

A young man held as a teen on Rikers Island for three years without trial, takes his own life.

What happens to you when you, as a teen, spend three years in jail without even a trial, with about two of those years spent in solitary confinement? What kind of person do you become? What kind of personality do you develop?

I wrote about this back in October 2, 2015. I might not have noticed that it is time to update the story, sadly, had it not been for Rand Paul who shared the news on Facebook.

Kelley and I extend our most heartfelt sorrow and deepest condolences to the family of Kalief Browder. May his soul rest in peace.

I guess, for some, you can take the boy out of Rikers Island, but you can’t take Rikers Island out of the boy.

According to The Hill, “Man jailed for years without conviction commits suicide.”

As a teenager, Browder was arrested for stealing a backpack and then held at the infamous Rikers Island for more than 1,000 days, before his case was ultimately dismissed.

The story helped prompt reforms at New York City’s courts and was held up as proof of the need to further overhaul the nation’s criminal justice system.

On Saturday — the same day Browder killed himself — Paul implored a crowd in Concord, N.H., to “think about Kalief Browder and think about how his friends must feel about American justice, how his parents must feel and about how his community feels.”

“If we become the party that cares about the Sixth Amendment as much as we do the Second Amendment, we’re going to dominate,” said Paul, who is running for president, according to The Washington Post. 

Browder left the jail in 2013 but appeared deeply troubled.

He tried to kill himself both inside and outside Rikers, according to The New Yorker, and had grown deeply paranoid.

“When you go over the three years that he spent [in jail] and all the horrific details he endured, it’s unbelievable that this could happen to a teen-ager in New York City,” Browder’s lawyer, Paul Prestia, told The New Yorker. “He didn’t get tortured in some prison camp in another country. It was right here!”

That is a basic summary. For a much more moving account of Browder’s struggles, see the New Yorker article written by the reporter who broke the original story.

I dare you to come to the end of it without tears.

Frankly, I am extremely doubtful about what kind of reforms have been put in place. While The Hill simply assures us that they have been accomplished, the New Yorker story about them gives of lots of reason to fear that it will be business as usual before long.