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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Teen Kills Himself After Lock Up In Solitary

Teen kills himself after lock up in solitary confinement on Rikers.

Kalif Brower Killed himself last week after spending 3 years in solitary. being in Solitary in Rikers prison in New York.
He was 16 years old waiting to go to trial.
Commentators have dubbed last week's suicide of Kalief Browder – who, at sixteen, was arrested and incarcerated on Rikers Island for three years while awaiting trial – a "tragedy." "Tragedy" suggests an unavoidable calamity. Kalief's heartbreaking death was the direct result of irrational criminal and juvenile justice policies compounded by deliberate acts of cruelty and indifference by those charged with ensuring his safety during his 1,000 days in jail. That the loss of this young man, so full of promise, was utterly preventable makes it all the more horrifying.
According to the New Yorker, Browder was charged with robbery of a backpack in 2010. From the start, many questions arose regarding his involvement in the crime; the complaining witness, for example, provided conflicting details about the incident, including the date on which it occurred. At the time, Browder was a high school sophomore who teachers described as "smart" and "fun." The court set bail at $3,000, which his mother could not afford to post. So, he sat in jail.
Over the next three years, Browder was brutalized numerous times by correctional officers and other inmates. He was held in solitary confinement and deprived of any meaningful human interaction for a total of almost two years. His physical and mental health deteriorated; for the first time, he began to contemplate suicide and attempted at least once to hang himself. Despite this trauma, he rejected numerous, increasingly lenient plea offers, insisting on his innocence and his right to a trial. Ultimately, the case against him was dismissed and he was released in May 2013. After returning home, he continued to suffer the psychological aftershocks of his ordeal. His life, as he saw it, had been derailed. He was only 22 when he took his own life.
First, although he was just 16 at the time of his arrest, he was charged as an adult and held in an adult jail. Every state, including New Jersey, has mechanisms for prosecuting children in the adult system, under the guise of public safety. Yet study after study has established that young people prosecuted as adults reoffend more frequently and more seriously than those who remain in the juvenile justice system. Like Browder, they are more likely to be physically and sexually assaulted while in custody, more likely to attempt or commit suicide and less likely to receive essential educational services and mental health treatment.

Second, though Browder was never convicted of the robbery, he sat in jail for three years. He wasn't detained because he was dangerous or likely to skip town: he was jailed because he didn't have $3,000. Throughout the country, including in New Jersey, jails are filled with people who are in jail simply because they are poor. And Browder, like so many people in our state, didn't wait weeks or months for his day in court, he waited years. Courts in New Jersey have failed to enforce the right to a speedy trial even in cases where it took more than four years to bring a defendant to trial.
Finally, Browder, like so many incarcerated people, suffered long periods of solitary confinement, and he attributed his ongoing depression and anxiety to the trauma of that isolation. This is consistent with a substantial body of research establishing that even a short stint in solitary can lead to profound psychological distress, including chronic and overwhelming depression, paranoia, hallucinations and feelings of rage and violence. Solitary is even more dangerous for children, whose brains are still developing and are more acutely affected by the denial of human contact.

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