From the Zinn Education Project today.
Kalief Browder was arrested at the age of 16 for allegedly stealing a backpack weeks before in the Bronx. Despite no evidence, never being convicted of a crime, nor a trial, Browder was held at Rikers Island for almost three years. For most of that time, he was held in solitary confinement. He was beaten and starved. He maintained his innocence, requested a trial, but was only offered plea deals while the trial was repeatedly delayed. On principle, he refused to plead guilty.
Eventually he was released from prison, but not from the trauma he had suffered. On Saturday, he committed suicide. We mourn his loss and commit to redouble our efforts to teach about and challenge the "new Jim Crow."
There's so much of this story that needs to be retold. I'll cut to the end. This from NPR today:
The Los Angeles Times spoke to Browder's lawyer on Sunday. Paul V. Prestia said that all those years in jail took an unbearable toll on Browder.
The Times reports:
" '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.'
More links: Three Years on Rikers Without Trial - The New Yorker
Kalief Browder, Held at Rikers Island for 3 Years Without Trial, Commits Suicide