RIP Kalief Browder
June 7, 2015 9:00 PM   Subscribe

Kalief Browder, held for three years on Rikers Island without charge, has taken his own life. Browder was first jailed at Rikers while he was a minor. All but forgotten by the Bronx District Attorney's office, he was beaten and at times held in solitary while awaiting a trial that never happened.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch (71 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:08 PM on June 7, 2015


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posted by harrietthespy at 9:09 PM on June 7, 2015


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posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:10 PM on June 7, 2015


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posted by slater at 9:19 PM on June 7, 2015


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posted by an animate objects at 9:27 PM on June 7, 2015


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The Bronx courts are so clogged that when a lawyer asks for a one-week adjournment the next court date usually doesn’t happen for six weeks or more. As long as a prosecutor has filed a Notice of Readiness, however, delays caused by court congestion don’t count toward the number of days that are officially held to have elapsed. Every time a prosecutor stood before a judge in Browder’s case, requested a one-week adjournment, and got six weeks instead, this counted as only one week against the six-month deadline. Meanwhile, Browder remained on Rikers, where six weeks still felt like six weeks—and often much longer.

"Kafkaesque" was made to describe this.

I doubt that any one person, or even one committee, designed the laws that created this outcome; it's a clear violation of the spirit of the six-month limit on felony arraignment. More likely the regulations were added bit by bit until we ended up with this indefensible result. But now that the result is apparent, and being reported about to the public, what will it take to get it fixed?

(Yes, this particular absurdity is only the tip of the iceberg, but that's no reason not to get simple and obvious fixes out of the way before handling larger systemic issues with less clear solutions. Here, you just have to make a six-week delay count for six weeks. That should provide some more incentive to avoid this "People not ready" nonsense, and get people to actually deal with the root causes of their "chronically overwhelmed" court system.)
posted by Rangi at 9:28 PM on June 7, 2015 [31 favorites]


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posted by Blue Jello Elf at 9:29 PM on June 7, 2015


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posted by skycrashesdown at 9:31 PM on June 7, 2015


He was effectively murdered by the State, but there are a lot more deaths that pass unnoticed because they happen bit by bit. An innocent person confined for a year has lost a year of their life - more, if you include the lasting effects of incarceration. Ten of them represent ten years of human life wasted; often the best years of their life gone forever. After a while, you have effectively wasted an entire human life, just because the State couldn't be arsed to get its act together.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:38 PM on June 7, 2015 [10 favorites]


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What a tragedy for such a young man.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:42 PM on June 7, 2015


This was murder.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:42 PM on June 7, 2015 [11 favorites]


Just got to the part about how "Bautista, the man who had accused Browder, had gone back to Mexico" and that Browder's prosecutors allegedly knew but were "seeking long, undue adjournments of these cases to procure a guilty plea from plaintiff." I can't help but wonder which bureaucrats and lawyers and legislators would have to be guillotined to give the rest an incentive to behave; and what really discourages me is that it probably wouldn't even work. (The French tried, after all, and ended up with an Emperor.)
posted by Rangi at 9:43 PM on June 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


I read of his death a few hours ago and I'm still full of sadness and fury too raw to allow me to think of things like politics or policy.

This is wretched. This is abomination.

Raze Rikers.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 9:45 PM on June 7, 2015 [6 favorites]


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posted by tychotesla at 9:48 PM on June 7, 2015


The guards in the second part of the video (starting at 2:02) in this link make the Keystone Cops look like a well-oiled professional organization. The system did this young man wrong to the point it killed him, and my bottom dollar says that no one will ever be held responsible.
posted by item at 9:49 PM on June 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


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posted by Iridic at 9:49 PM on June 7, 2015


Yes, again:

This. Was. Murder.

Two years in solitary confinement as a teen with no charges being convicted.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:49 PM on June 7, 2015


Unbelievably grim. Peace to his family.

Solitary confinement should be abolished everywhere. It is cruel and unusual. But what happened to this boy and his family is beyond comprehension.

Burn it down.
posted by Fnarf at 9:52 PM on June 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Okay, maybe I was too pessimistic; Mayor de Blasio is at least attempting to reform the system:
This morning, however, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the state’s top judge, Jonathan Lippman, will announce a plan to speed up the city’s courts, so that fewer people will remain in jail without trial for as long as Kalief did. In the first part of the plan, everyone who has been held in the city’s jails for more than a year without being convicted of a crime—about fifteen hundred men and women—will have their cases fast-tracked, with the goal of resolving half of these cases within six months.
They would probably be better off automatically releasing them all for time served, on the assumption that any incorrigible criminals will quickly get themselves re-arrested; but that would be politically infeasible.
posted by Rangi at 9:52 PM on June 7, 2015 [11 favorites]


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posted by The Great Big Mulp at 9:53 PM on June 7, 2015


This morning, however, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the state’s top judge, Jonathan Lippman, will announce a plan to speed up the city’s courts, so that fewer people will remain in jail without trial for as long as Kalief did.

FEWER?! Fuck "fewer".

A YEAR? Are you fucking kidding me?

Raze Rikers.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 9:54 PM on June 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


Fuck. I remember reading his story before. It never felt to me like he was fully recovered just based on what I read, and it's easy to understand why.

Rand Paul, if this really means something to you beyond politics, and everybody else with the power to demand change right now...you are too fucking late but it's time to make it a real priority.

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And another for the uncounted number of people we haven't read about.

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posted by Drinky Die at 9:54 PM on June 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


This inspires the same kind of impotent anger I feel towards Wall St. greed and our corrupt justice system. No one person to point to, and if there is one person to point to, they're never convicted.

Shit'll never change.
posted by tunewell at 9:57 PM on June 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


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posted by Cash4Lead at 10:01 PM on June 7, 2015


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posted by mixedmetaphors at 10:05 PM on June 7, 2015


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posted by jabah at 10:35 PM on June 7, 2015


They would probably be better off automatically releasing them all for time served [...]

Or work it this way: his bail was set at $3,000. Set jail time awaiting charges as being worth, say, thirty dollars a night. So after 100 days of awaiting charges, he would have been released.

Or just drop the monetary component of bail altogether: if people can be safely released then everybody benefits by having them be released. It's not that hard to find people if you need to, and if someone's going to skip bail then $3,000 won't make any difference.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:38 PM on June 7, 2015 [13 favorites]


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posted by Joey Michaels at 10:39 PM on June 7, 2015


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posted by mochapickle at 10:40 PM on June 7, 2015


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posted by trip and a half at 10:40 PM on June 7, 2015


Maybe we just need to interpret the word "speedy" in human terms and not geological terms.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:46 PM on June 7, 2015 [14 favorites]


This just plain sucks! :( •
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 10:57 PM on June 7, 2015


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posted by brecc at 11:04 PM on June 7, 2015


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posted by none of these will bring disaster at 11:25 PM on June 7, 2015


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posted by Kevin Street at 11:41 PM on June 7, 2015



Or work it this way: his bail was set at $3,000. Set jail time awaiting charges as being worth, say, thirty dollars a night. So after 100 days of awaiting charges, he would have been released.


This is one facet of housing discrimination that I think is not appreciated. If you own real estate, in most jurisdictions it is pretty easy to post a property bond for someone, and as long as they show up for court there is no monetary cost to getting them out of jail. On the other hand, if you are stuck renting, then you are forced to pay a bail bondsman 10% or whatever the going rate is, which can be a real burden for someone living paycheck to paycheck.

But beyond that little detail, this case is both horrifying and infuriating. I cannot even imagine my teenaged self in such a situation. RIP indeed. I hope his experience is one more thing that moves us to a more humane system of justice in this country.
posted by TedW at 11:48 PM on June 7, 2015 [10 favorites]


horrific!
posted by greenhornet at 12:00 AM on June 8, 2015


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posted by riverlife at 12:27 AM on June 8, 2015


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posted by Wemmick at 1:04 AM on June 8, 2015


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posted by lovelygirl at 1:47 AM on June 8, 2015


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posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:03 AM on June 8, 2015


They would probably be better off automatically releasing them all for time served, on the assumption that any incorrigible criminals will quickly get themselves re-arrested; but that would be politically infeasible.
posted by Rangi at 9:52 PM on June 7 [3 favorites +] [!]


But then they'd be unable to assess "incarceration fees"
posted by yesster at 4:41 AM on June 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


If the police are initiating more cases than the courts can process and there's no political will to spend more overall, why not take resources ($$$) away from the police and give it to the courts? Simplistic, I know, but the system as a whole seems not only under-resourced, but terribly out of balance.
posted by jon1270 at 4:56 AM on June 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


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posted by cotton dress sock at 5:47 AM on June 8, 2015


This was murder.

By proxy, yes.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 6:32 AM on June 8, 2015


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posted by dubitable at 6:38 AM on June 8, 2015


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posted by evilDoug at 6:55 AM on June 8, 2015


The notes in his case about his "alleged" accusations against the guards are sickening, as are the editorial comments from the guards of "we take these allegations very seriously."

They took them so seriously that they assumed he was lying and made up scenarios to explain how he got them other than what happened. They took them so seriously that they moved him between solitary (actual torture) and a gang-run unit where he was essentially prey. They took them so seriously that nothing ever happened, for long enough that it destroyed his life, and then ended it.

This is like another iteration of "I'm not racist, but [racist thing]." "We take these allegations seriously, but actually he probably deserved it and he's a liar and one week is six weeks and what did he expect and how dare he expect to be treated like a human and innocent until proven guilty is fine in THEORY and all but come on. We take these allegations seriously but no, we don't. The only allegations we take seriously are the ones made against this CHILD, allegations which are unsubstantiated in any way. The only allegations we take seriously are the ones we already believe in."
posted by a fiendish thingy at 7:01 AM on June 8, 2015 [12 favorites]


Ta-Nehisi Coates: The Brief and Tragic Life of Kalief Browder
The numbers which people like me bring forth to convey the problems of our justice system are decent tools. But what the numbers can’t convey is what the justice system does to the individual black body. Kalief Browder was an individual, which is to say he was a being with his own passions, his own particular joys, his own strange demons, his own flaws, his own eyes, his own mouth, his own original hands. His family had their own particular stories of him. His friends must remember him in their own original way. The senseless destruction of this individual must necessarily be laid at the feet of the citizens of New York, because it was done by our servants, and it was done in our name.

There should be an accounting beyond numbers for these years, something that goes beyond the failures of state budgets, something that goes beyond the the insanity of our policy. Something that captures the grandmothers beaten on traffic islands, the daughters shoved face first into the ground, the son shot while playing, the man choked to death over cigarettes, or for producing his license, or for being mentally ill, or for playing cops and robbers, or for sport. This is more than mistaken policy. This is cruelty—the long war to save the blacks from themselves. Browder was not “the blacks.” He was his mother and father’s child—an individual. And yet for reasons as old as America, he was not treated like one.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:50 AM on June 8, 2015 [22 favorites]


"he told me, “I feel like I broke myself into books through street novels.” He moved on to more demanding reading and said that his favorite book was Craig Unger’s “House of Bush, House of Saud.”"

Wow. That's both awesome and sad. I don't know i'd want to be reading that while in solitary. Might make me more nuts.
posted by sio42 at 7:56 AM on June 8, 2015


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Dammit.
posted by allthinky at 8:24 AM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


One more example of how the state can still lynch a man when it wants to.

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posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:29 AM on June 8, 2015


I'm glad someone posted about this. I remember reading the New Yorker article last fall.

There are so many levels of failure and dysfunction in this story-- he shouldn't have been arrested in the first place (or should have been released shortly after being arrested), his public defender should have actually had the ability, with a reasonable caseload, to pay even a little bit of attention to his case. He shouldn't have been held in solitary confinement.

The most pernicious aspect to me is the state's refusal to back down even when they know they have no case. The court delays weren't just bureaucratic dysfunction; they are part of a deliberate strategy of intimidating defendants to accept a "deal" that isn't in their best interest. A guilty plea or a conviction shouldn't be considered a victory for the prosecution regardless of the facts; even in an adversarial justice system the prosecution has the responsibility to only use their powers for cases that merit it. Browder knew he was innocent; he insisted on a trial, which is actually pretty remarkable because most defendants in his position will eventually give in.

Some might find this interview from last fall with Jennifer Gonnerman, who wrote the New Yorker article, interesting.
posted by Asparagus at 8:58 AM on June 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Also, from the original New Yorker article-- this was one of the saddest anecdotes to me.

The Bing had only “cell study”: a correction officer slid work sheets under the door in the morning, collected them a few days later, and, eventually, returned them with a teacher’s marks. Some inmates never bothered to fill in the work sheets, but Browder told himself, “I’m already in jail—I might as well keep trying to do something.” There were times, however, when nobody came by to collect the work sheets on the day he’d been told they were due. If Browder saw a captain walk by through the small window in his door, he would shout, “Where is the school correction officer to pick up the work?”

It's like we're not even trying to pretend anymore that rehabilitation is a function of the justice system.
posted by Asparagus at 9:03 AM on June 8, 2015 [13 favorites]


Fuck this system.
posted by wuwei at 9:44 AM on June 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


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posted by JiBB at 11:19 AM on June 8, 2015


Browder knew he was innocent; he insisted on a trial, which is actually pretty remarkable because most defendants in his position will eventually give in.

Given the outcome, it seems like pleading guilty might well be your best option. Maintaining your innocence only leads to extended physical and mental torture, to the point of causing or exacerbating mental illness and leading to suicide of the accused.
posted by zug at 12:01 PM on June 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


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posted by tilde at 1:05 PM on June 8, 2015


Given the outcome, it seems like pleading guilty might well be your best option.

...which is unbelievably fucked up.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 1:07 PM on June 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


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posted by meese at 1:10 PM on June 8, 2015


Given the outcome, it seems like pleading guilty might well be your best option.

...which is unbelievably fucked up.


It is absolutely insane: we just want to pretend to be doing something like closing cases, not actually solve cases. It is a sick game.

Why do people take particular glee in destroying the lives of others? That is not a sign of power, but one weakness, cowardice, and defeat. A man killed himself in a state-sanctioned torture chamber and there will be people shooting me dirty looks as they disparage me behind my back because I care about this more than listening to their fake reasons why they pretend to like Game of Thrones.

I always said prisons were concentration camps and for this tragedy to have happened just reinforces that belief in me.

I am not naïve; I am not someone who could be called a bleeding heart, but this system is corrupt beyond repair and it does not work. It's always about hurting people instead of getting the job done responsibly in a timely and effective manner.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 3:09 PM on June 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


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posted by What'sAPedantWalter? at 3:15 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


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posted by glaucon at 3:32 PM on June 8, 2015


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I feel deep shame.
posted by sallybrown at 8:34 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


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posted by i feel possessed at 10:26 PM on June 8, 2015


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posted by the_blizz at 9:02 AM on June 9, 2015


what the fuck
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:50 PM on June 9, 2015




Say his name. Remember it.

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posted by nubianinthedesert at 5:07 PM on June 10, 2015


An interesting Slate article, but ...

The Problem With Bail - And one simple way to fix it.

... saying "Oh charities will provide a fix for the system!" has failed in the USA so many times before. It doesn't scale and people start begrudging the aid they provide. Bail is broken, and the solution is to get rid of it, wholly or at least mostly.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:59 PM on June 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic: An American Kidnapping
I took some time this weekend to re-read Jennifer Gonnerman’s piece on the odyssey of Kalief Browder. I wanted to understand how, precisely, it happened that a boy was snatched off the streets of New York, repeatedly beaten, and subjected to the torture of solitary confinement, and yet no one was held accountable. To understand this question is to journey into a world of legal-speak and phraseology all of which, in the case of Browder, allows what we would normally label thuggery to mask itself under the banner of law. Browder was supposed to be held no longer than six months. But as Gonnerman explains, poor people and the courts do not use the same clocks:
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:37 PM on June 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


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