May 25, 1993
June 6, 2015
Age at Death:
Kalief Browder was born in The Bronx, New York, and grew up near the Bronx Zoo. He loved W.W.E. and Pokemon, and going to the zoo on free Wednesdays when he was young. He attended New Day Academy for high school, where he was well-liked by most everyone. He was remembered as a fun and smart kid, the kind of person everyone would want to be around. Before he died, Kalief had gotten his G.E.D. and was working a part-time job.
When Kalief Browder was 10 days away from his 17th birthday, he was arrested for robbery on his walk home from a party. Although he told the police officers he was innocent many times, he was sent to jail because he had been charged with grand larceny eight months earlier and was still on probation, and had a "youthful offender" status. However, he was innocent of grand larceny; he only pleaded guilty to the charge because he didn't think he would have any defense against his case. Kalief's bail was set at $3,000, but his family couldn't afford to pay it, and they couldn't afford a lawyer, either. Kalief refused to plead guilty for the robbery charge even though he knew it could get him out of jail sooner, and because the court system in the Bronx is so delayed, he ended up staying in jail for three years, awaiting his trial. To make matters worse, he spent most of his time at Riker's in solitary confinement, in a 12-by-7-foot cell, for protecting himself against the violence that went on inside. Gangs controlled who got to do what and often had ties with guards, who frequently abused their power. Unfortunately, Kalief never received his date in court because the victim of the robbery left the country after changing his story multiple times, and his case ended up getting dismissed. When he finally got home from jail, he was depressed and anxious, traumatized from his stay in Rikers. When he was only 22 years old, Kalief Browder took his own life by hanging himself.
Was justice served?
Justice has been served for Kalief and his family. On January 24th, 2019, Kalief's family received $3.3 million from a wrongful death settlement with the New York City Law department. Additionally, his case sparked a national debate about reforming the way minors are treated in the criminal justice system. The mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, ended solitary confinement of minors in 2014, and vowed to end all solitary confinement in June of 2020. Former President Barack Obama also enacted reform of the use of solitary confinement in federal prisons in 2016.