A 22-year-old man who spent three years in jail at New York City’s Rikers Island without ever being convicted of a crime died this weekend of an apparent suicide, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Kalief Browder, who was released in 2013, died at home in the Bronx on Saturday, his lawyer Paul V. Prestia told the Times. Browder was 16-years-old when he was arrested on suspicion of stealing a backpack, and he spent about two years in solitary confinement, the report says. He was never convicted.
“I think what caused the suicide was his incarceration and those hundreds and hundreds of nights in solitary confinement, where there were mice crawling up his sheets in that little cell,” Prestia said in a phone interview Sunday evening. “Being starved, and not being taken to the shower for two weeks at a time … those were direct contributing factors.… That was the pain and sadness that he had to deal with every day, and I think it was too much for him.”…
Browder, who was black, insisted he was innocent. The story told how he had spent two of his three years on Rikers Island in solitary confinement, and how he had attempted suicide multiple times before prosecutors ultimately dropped the charges in May 2013.
Publicity around Browder’s case came at a time of increasing scrutiny on jails, prisons and municipal courts, especially in how the nation’s justice system treats people of color.