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Kaleif, the best way to describe him, he's a kid. He's a kid that was my brother and still is. I mean I live to keep his legacy alive. [MUSIC] I remember his laugh because he was ticklish as a baby like. And who isn't, I'm still ticklish but I remember like his laugh was really notable [LAUGH]. I remember him coming home, when my, because we're all adopted so my mother when she took us all in. We're all family, we didn't even know that we're adopted. We all come from different shades. And, yet We don't know the difference. You know you're not taught hatred. You're just a human being and so brothers as we are, we stick together, we fight. That's what makes the family. And Khalif was certainly a normal family member before he went to jail. No ones realizing the uniqueness of being in jail And conditions of being in jail like solitary confinement. And what they did to Kalif like teaching him how to commit suicide. A prophet comes as Jay Z said in many different shapes and sizes. He came as a kid to teach us grown men and women how to start looking at things different. His hurt became our mission And so with the Kalief Browder Foundation we're trying to get into the DSM a recognized diagnosis for the unique circumstance of being incarcerated. Kalief was diagnosed with multiple personality syndrome. The treatment didn't follow, they gave him Risperdal. Risperdal is a disgusting medication with a 17% rate of suicide if given between the age of 11 and 21. Why they would give it to him? Because they didn't acknowledge, they neglected, and they didn't care that this child Is between 11 and 21 and in a specific setting, he's in solitary confinement. We gave him the reason to create multiple personalities. So we wanna stop the medicinal treatment or care and say that you know what? There's another way We can mentor these people with the right training. we could counsel them. And what's the definition of insanity? To continue doing something and expecting a different result, and yet that's what we've been doing, and it's not working. So it's time to give Calibrod Association a chance to at least say that you know what, we could be onto something because we tried everything else. We wanna remember Kalief. [MUSIC]

Two years after Kalief Browder’s death, the broken criminal justice system that imprisoned and tortured him at just 16 years old is making strides to undergo reform.

That transformation would be a slower process had Browder’s haunting story not come to light. Jailed at Rikers Island for three years after he was accused of stealing a backpack, Browder’s short life can serve as a highlight reel for the injustices of the system; the abuse from correctional officers, overcrowding at the mismanaged prison complex, solitary confinement and the fight to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York state.

Browder was never convicted of a crime, and on June 6, 2015, two years after he was released, the 22-year-old Bronx native took his own life.

But as these reforms continue to garner support — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who once called the plan unrealistic, proposed shutting the doors to Rikers Island in March and Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently signed legislation to raise the age into law — it’s the idea to overhaul a system that aided in Browder’s mental decline, according to his brother Akeem Browder, that will make the most effective change. That’s the goal of the Kalief Browder Foundation, which Akeem co-created to carry on the legacy of his brother.

“He’s a kid that was my brother. He still is. I live to keep his legacy alive,” Akeem told ESSENCE on the second anniversary of his death.

“Kalief was certainly a normal family member before he went to jail. No one’s realizing the uniqueness of being in jail and the conditions of being in jail, like solitary confinement, or what they did to Kalief. Like, teach him to commit suicide.”

Browder spent 800 of his 1,000 days on Rikers Island locked away in solitary confinement. During that time, he was reportedly physically and mentally abused by guards, starved and neglected. He was also diagnosed with multiple personality syndrome that was medicinally treated by physicians with the use of Risperdal. The dosage of that drug, according to Akeem, was not supposed to be given to someone Browder’s age. 

In addition to addressing recidivism and pushing for the right to a speedy trial, a large part of the Foundation’s mission is to address the mental health issues that arise when enduring the unique circumstances of incarceration.

“To understand that those that are impacted in the unique way that is only common to people behind the walls of incarceration, unlike post-traumatic stress from military personnel or in circumstances of Natural Disasters, Child Abuse or any of its wide spectrum; humans in captivity suffer unique symptoms that We Demand treatment to be specific to their trauma,” the website reads, touting the Kalief Browder Success Act.

For Akeem, who says he is running for mayor of New York City this November, it’s all the Foundation can do to prevent another young man or woman from taking their life due to their experience in the criminal justice system.

“His hurt became our mission. We want to remember Kalief.”

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