“Exhume those bodies. Exhume those stories. The stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition,” she continued.
That’s exactly what executive producers Jay Z and Harvey Weinstein intend to do in “Time: The Kalief Browder Story.” The six-part docuseries covers the life of Kaleif Browder, a 22-year-old New York man who took his life after a years-long sting in Rikers left him depleted and emotionally broken. The series premiered on March 1 at 10 p.m. ET on Spike TV.
In one scene, he says he planned to become a successful businessman and imagined walking to work with coffee in his hand. Like most teenagers, he enjoyed socializing with friends and playing video games.
“Before,” Browder said, “I fit in.”
“Time,” uses Browder’s story to highlight the fundamentally broken parts of the criminal justice system.
On May 15, 2010, police plucked Browder from Arthur Avenue near his home in the Bronx, accusing him of stealing a book bag. Browder maintained his innocence and refused to take a guilty plea. He nor his family were able to post bail, which was set at $3,000.
What transpired was a soul-snatching, three-year ordeal which included solitary confinement and led to psychological trauma that left Browder emotionally depleted.
“When they sent me to Rikers Island I was 16. It was like hell on earth,” Browder says in the film. “Sometimes I feel like I’m never going to be the same. I smile and I joke a lot but deep down I’m a mess. I’m 21 and on the inside I feel like I’m 40.”
Browder’s harrowing experience did end with his release from Rikers in 2013 when prosecutors dropped the charges against him.
Outside of prison he sought to maintain the appearance of normalcy, becoming the poster child for criminal justice reform and enrolling in Bronx Community College in hopes of ensuring a brighter future, The Guardian reports.
But the experience at Rikers left him depressed and paranoid, family members recall. In June 2015, he committed suicide using an air conditioner cord to hang himself. After his sudden death, President Obama and New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, called for an end to solitary confinement for minors.
Though Browder’s plight was widely reported, “Time,” ties together the intricate layers which led to Browder’s detainment–the controversial “Stop and Frisk” policy, the economic realities of bail reform, and the criminalization of Black people in America. As CNN commentator Van Jones points out in the doc, Browder adopted out of foster care, lived under state surveillance for the majority of his life.
“We say that the system is broken. I think that I’ve come to the realization that it’s doing exactly what it was designed to do and that is to take poor people and people of color and put them out of sight,” series co-producder Nate Sandow said in an interview with The Guardian.
Filmmakers also secured important interviews with numerous power players in New York’s judicial system, including the former New York attorney general, former Rikers Island prison staff, law-enforcment officials, politicians and activists.
Tragically, just two weeks after the series was announced in September, Browder’s 63-year-old mother, Venida died from heart complications.
Browder’s siblings believe the documentary will serve as a story of hope for the downtrodden and their advocates.
“I’m glad that Kalief is this voice of reform and change,” Kalief’s brother Deion said in an interview with The Guardian. “I hope it can be that beacon of hope for people who feel like they have no way out. I just wish he were here to see it.”
SOURCE: The Guardian