Over Three Years In Rikers for Allegedly Stealing a Backpack – Spike Tells the Tragic Story of Kalief Browder
And that’s exactly why you need to watch it.
In 2010, Kalief Browder was stopped in the Bronx on his way home from a party. Police told the 16-year-old and his friend that they were suspects in a robbery. A man claimed they had stolen his backpack. Browder pleaded his innocence, and asked officers to search him. They found nothing.
The boys were cuffed and brought to the precinct, where they were fingerprinted and locked in a holding cell. According to Jennifer Gonnerman’s 2014 exposé for the New Yorker, Browder expected to be released shortly.
Instead, he spent the next three and a half years incarcerated on Rikers Island.
In this time, Browder experienced such gruesome conditions he attempted to take his own life, twice. He was attacked by guards and fellow inmates, robbed, and thrown in solitary confinement. When offered a plea bargain that would let him leave Rikers if he admitted guilt, the teen maintained his innocence and waited for his day in trial.
That day never came. Instead, the case fizzled out. The man accusing Browder of stealing his backpack—a backpack which never turned up as evidence—returned to his home country.
Without evidence or a witness to testify against Browder, the prosecutors gave up. There was no trial. There was no verdict. Browder was summarily released. After three and a half years, Browder finally returned to his Bronx neighborhood. It didn’t feel like home anymore.
Browder lost interest in his former hobbies like basketball, and instead spent his time alone in his room—as if he were in solitary confinement. He felt ashamed to talk to his old friends, many of whom had gone on to college. He was triggered by the sight of a police car or the sound of sirens. According to his the New Yorker profile, Browder still felt as though he was in jail.
Browder committed suicide in 2015.
The producers behind Spike’s six-part documentary series hope the special will bring justice to Browder—justice he never saw in his short life.
Time: The Kalief Browder Story is a partnership between the Weinstein Company, an independent film studio, and rapper Jay-Z, who serves as executive producer.
“Kalief Browder is a modern-day prophet,” said Jay Z in a statement on Spike’s blog. “His story a failure of the judicial process…His tragedy has brought atrocities to light, and now we must confront the issues and events that occurred so other young men can have a chance at justice.”
Through Spike’s series, we’ll witness the horrific conditions Browder endured. The show features reenactments and footage from Rikers’ security cameras, as well as interviews from those close to the case.
— Viacommunity (@Viacommunity) February 27, 2017
“Kalief’s story should endure and inspire much-needed change in the criminal justice system,” Spike Executive Vice President Sharon Levy told Deadline’s Ross A. Lincoln. “When Weinstein Television brought us this project, we immediately knew it was a story that had to be told.”
Time: The Kalief Browder Story airs Wednesday, March 1 on Spike.