By now you may know the story – Kalief Browder has become the primary example of the justice system’s punitive and unjust treatment of Blacks, especially Black males. At 16, Bronx native Browder was arrested on suspicion of stealing a backpack. He spent the next three years of his life in New York’s notorious Riker’s Island prison without bail or a trial and in solitary confinement for most of that time. After he was released, he struggled and at 22, he killed himself. Jay Z recently announced that he’s making a documentary of Browder’s life story.
Sadly, there’s an even more tragic ending to Browder’s story. His mother, Venida Browder, 63, died on Friday at a hospital in the Bronx, her lawyer, Paul Prestia, told the New York Daily News.
“She was a woman of incredible grace and compassion who tirelessly fought for justice for her son Kalief and who championed the civil rights of others in our city,” Prestia said Sunday.
“But the stress from this crusade coupled with the strain of the pending lawsuits against the city and the pain from the death were too much to for her to bear. In my opinion she literally died of a broken heart.”
Kalief was just 16 in May 2010 when he was jailed after a teen accused him of robbing him of his backpack.
His family couldn’t make the $3000 bail, so he spent three years in Rikers, enduring beatings by guards and 400 days total in solitary confinement before the charges against him were ultimately dropped.
Chilling video footage shows Browder slammed to the floor by a correction officer taking him from cell to a shower on Sept. 23, 2012, after Browder appears to say something to the guard.
Browder told the New Yorker magazine he was given extra days in solitary after the guard told correction officials the teen had tried to run away.
“After that happened, to be honest, I was scared to come out of my cell to get in the shower again,” he told the magazine.
More footage shows Browder being beaten by about 10 other teen inmates in a wild brawl on October 20, 2010.
His case prompted Mayor de Blasio to reform the scandal-plague city jail to stop solitary confinement for 16- and 17-year-old inmates.
After getting out of jail, Browder enrolled Bronx Community College, but suffered bouts with depression that triggered other suicide attempts and a stay at the psych ward at Harlem Hospital.
The night before his suicide, Browder told his mother, “Ma, I can’t take it anymore.”
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