At a time when the nation faces a crisis of mass incarceration with more than 2 million people in prisons and jails, the personal story of one Bronx man is revealing just how broken the criminal justice system truly is.
Twenty-two-year-old Kalief Browder spent three years in Riker’s Island, which has been ranked as one of the most violent prisons in the country. Reports show that of the 7,500 people detained at the prison, almost 80 percent have not yet been found guilty or innocent of the charges they face.
After an unjust arrest at the age of 16, Browder endured beatings, starvation and torture without ever being convicted of a crime. On his first day there, he was beat by officers repeatedly, many of which were caught on surveillance video. He was eventually released after the case was dismissed.
In June of 2015, Browder hanged himself with an air conditioning cord after he suffered from things like depression and several flashbacks from his imprisonment. His painful story caught the attention of many, including media mogul Jay Z, who collaborated with Spike and The Weinstein Company to produce the compelling six-part documentary TIME: The Kalief Browder Story. He has described Browder as “a modern-day prophet; his story a failure of the judicial process.”
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The first episode, which premiered on Wednesday, was titled ‘The System’ and displayed Browder’s fight for justice during his tenure on Rikers Island.
Here are five things to know about Browder’s story: