Time for Change: Spike’s Docu-Series Endures Kalief Browder’s Fight for Justice In a Broken System

“When they sent me to Rikers Island, I was 16. I would say it was like hell on Earth. Sometimes, you know, I feel like I’m never going to be the same. You know, I smile, and I joke a lot. But, you know, deep down, I’m a mess because like I’m 21, and on the inside I feel like I’m 40.” – The late Kalief Browder – Time: The Kalief Browder Story

Spike’s documentary series Time: The Kalief Browder Story  exposes our broken U.S. justice system through the tragic story of Kalief Browder—a  young black man who committed suicide in 2015 after spending three years on New York City’s Riker’s Island prison for allegedly stealing a backpack.

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Image courtesy of Spike.

Browder fought to clear his name until he could not fight any longer. With help from public officials and other media outlets, Spike is picking up where he left off.

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Over Three Years In Rikers for Allegedly Stealing a Backpack – Spike Tells the Tragic Story of Kalief Browder

Spike‘s newest documentary series, Time: The Kalief Browder Story, is going to make you uncomfortable.

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.

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