Teen Jailed for Years with No Conviction Says He was ‘Starved’
By Christopher Mathias
In March of 2012, Kalief Browder says he ripped the sheets off his bed inside a jail cell at Rikers Island, and fashioned a noose from the ceiling. According to Browder, just as he was about to hang himself, New York City Correction officers stormed into the cell and grabbed him, tackled him to the bed, and punched him repeatedly.
Browder, who joined HuffPost Live for an interview, says he was punished for the suicide attempt, one of five or six such attempts during his three-year stay at the notoriously violent New York City jail. Correction officers “starved” him, he says, withholding up to four meals at a time while he languished in solitary confinement.
And all for a crime for which he was never convicted.
In 2010, a complete stranger accused Kalief Browder, then just 16 years old, of robbing him. Browder was walking home in the Bronx from a party one night when police officers stopped and arrested him. Browder says officers told him he’d probably be freed later that night. Instead, Browder would go on to spend three birthdays on Rikers.
This past January, Browder was offered a deal: Plead guilty and be sentenced to time served, or plead not guilty, and if convicted, face another 15 years in jail. Browder, who has always maintained his innocence, refused to plead guilty, and in June, charges against him were suddenly dropped.
“This happens every day,” he told host Marc Lamont Hill Monday of his harrowing ordeal, and of the painful decision not to plead guilty. “It’s gotta stop.”
In October, Browder filed a civil lawsuit against the NYPD, the Bronx District Attoney, and New York City Department of Corrections, among other state-employed individuals.