Jay-Z and Harvey Weinstein recently produced a six-part documentary on Spike TV about a 16-year-old boy named Kalief Browder who was imprisoned at Riker's Island for three years.
The tragedy is that he was innocent!
Kalief Browder was hanging out one night on the street when he was accused by a passerby of stealing a backpack. The accuser changed his story several times. Kalief was already on law enforcements radar because when he was 14 he did what many kids have done...He took a joyride in a bread truck!
Kalief was questioned for 17 hours and continuously professed his innocence. He was remanded to Rikers Island and bail was set at $3,000.00. It might of well have been $300,000 because his family did NOT have the money. After borrowing money from a neighbor, his mother went to a bail bondsman with $900. Bailbondsman will take all kinds of collateral as payment such as jewelry, deeds to houses, and even retirement funds. As it turns out, Kalief' s father who abandoned the family when Kalif was 11 years old, could have put up the bail money. When the bail bondsman tried to submit the bail payment on the computer it said "bail denied." Because Kalief was already in the system, bail was denied. Kalief's mother was devastated.
From the minute Kalief stepped off the bus and entered the youth offenders unit, he was a target. He was small in stature but tough. When asked by fellow inmates if he would " join the program" which is a hierarchy of battle tested brawlers who prove themselves by beating up any inmate who refuses to obey. They control everything from where the inmates can sit to their commissary accounts.
Even the Corrections Officers are said to be a part of it, but no one wants to speak about the details out of fear. 800 of the 1000 days that he spent at Riker's he spent in solitary confinement. Most of it was punishment for defending himself during regular gang beatings, where four or more inmates gang up and beat on a fellow inmate. Inmates call it getting jumped. Kalief lost count of how many times he was beaten.
Kalief was finally released in May of 2013. Two years later he committed suicide by hanging himself.