When the staff of Reentry Central heard the news that Kalief Browder committed suicide on June 6, we were filled with sadness, a sense of helplessness and anger.
Kalief was the subject of an article in The New Yorker magazine that brought to light everything that was wrong with the criminal justice system, particularly the “culture of violence” at Rikers Island, New York’s massive jail complex.
We are re-posting the article on Kalief that Reentry Central published on October 10, 2014, which includes a link to the original New Yorker> article, an article that a leading figure in criminal justice reform suggested should be “compulsory reading” for elected officials in New York.
An American Criminal Justice Horror Story
Kalief Browder was confined to Rikers Island for three years before his case was dismissed
October 10, 2014
In case you haven’t already, Reentry Central suggests that you read Jennifer Gonnerman’s article “Before the Law” published in The New Yorker magazine on October 6. The article has received a lot of media coverage because of the outrage that it sparked over a soon-to-be 17 year-old who was charged with robbing a backpack and spent three years in jail at Rikers Island as he fought the system by refusing to take a plea bargain. Kalief Browder was steadfast in maintaining his innocence. Browder had just turned twenty when the prosecutor in his case dismissed charges against him.
Browder was then free to leave the physical confines of Rikers Island, but Rikers Island never left his mind. He attempted suicide twice and has flashbacks about his experiences at Rikers to this day. Someone claimed he stole a backpack. The New Yorker lays out how Browder had three years of his life stolen by a flawed criminal justice system.
David Rothenberg, founder of The Fortune Society suggests that Gonnerman’s article should be “compulsory reading for all elected officials in New York City.” Reentry Central suggests that this article should be read far outside the scope of New York City. Judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, reentry specialists, mental health professionals and anyone with even the mildest interest in criminal justice reform throughout America should read this scathing indictment of our criminal justice system, and work towards making sure this never happens again."
Read Gonnerman’s stirring interview with Kalief Browder here.
To read the New Yorker’s follow up article relating the events that led up to Kalief’s tragic suicide, click here.