Browder family continues fight for criminal justice reform
NEW YORK – The brother of a man who killed himself after being held at Rikers Island for three years without ever being charged is fighting abuse in the criminal justice system on multiple fronts.
Kalief Browder’s story has been gaining momentum in recent weeks, from a bill recently proposed in Congress to the mayor’s vow to close Rikers Island and the premier of a Spike TV documentary on his tragic tale.
“The corrections officers taught Kalief how to commit suicide,” says his brother, Akeem Browder.
Kalief Browder was accused of stealing a backpack when he was 16 years old. He was imprisoned for three years and never charged. After his release, he killed himself in 2015. As News 12 has reported, he faced beatings and abuse at the hands of adult prisoners and guards.
Since then, Akeem Browder has been demanding that the city close the jail. The mayor has called for its closure within 10 years, but Browder wants it to happen immediately and for the correction officers who work there to face a reckoning.
“They’re just going to move those officers to another location,” Browder says. “It’s not the jail. It’s those officers.”
Additionally, the proposed Kalief Browder Re-entry Success Act calls for the mental health of prisoners to be assessed before their release. It would also require support if soon-to-be released inmates required it.
The Browder family and other activists have also supported the Raise the Age Initiative, which sought to keep teens under 18 years old from being charged and held as adults. That initiative was shut down in the state budget Wednesday.
Akeem Browder says he hopes that the Spike TV documentary series will help raise awareness and lead to an end to jail abuses.