Civil rights organization Justice League NYC is planning a vigil in remembrance of 22-year-old Kalief Browder, a Bronx man who was detained for three years on Rikers Island without a trial. Browder committed suicide on Saturday, June 6, two years after his release from prison.
Browder was arrested in 2010 at the age of 16 for allegedly stealing a backpack in the Bronx. He was charged with grand larceny, assault and robbery. Because he was already on probation, he was placed in Rikers Island, a New York prison. He spent three years in prison without a trial, and a combined one year of his time there in solitary confinement. Browder also suffered physical and mental abuse: Surveillance video obtained by The New Yorker shows him being severely beaten by correctional officers and other inmates. By the time his case was dismissed in 2013, he had tried to commit suicide multiple times.
Shortly after his release, he attempted suicide for the sixth time and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. After he was sent back home, he enrolled in community college, but battled another bout of depression earlier this year and was readmitted to a hospital. Last Friday night—one day before he hung himself outside of his home with an air conditioner cord—he told his mom that he couldn’t “take it anymore.”
Justice League NYC has organized a memorial, which is scheduled to take place in New York City tomorrow evening in front of the Metropolitan Detention Complex, a Manhattan jail.
“Join the Justice League NYC and fellow New Yorkers for a vigil to honor the life of #KaliefBrowder and to shine a light on the criminal in-justice system that continues to psychologically and physically kill our young people figuratively and literally,” reads the event’s Facebook page.
Civil rights leaders are arguing that the criminal justice system is to blame for Browder’s death, particularly considering that Browder was placed—and detained—in an adult correctional facility when he was still a juvenile. According to a New York Times article, Rikers, which has attracted criticism in recent months for abusing inmates, currently has more than 400 inmates who are awaiting trial. Six of them have been waiting for longer than six years.
The vigil is scheduled to take place tomorrow evening at 6 p.m. ET at the Metropolitan Detention Complex, 125 White Street, New York, NY 10013. For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page.