Two years after his release from Rikers Island Prison Complex in New York, Kalief Browder committed suicide by hanging himself at the residence of his parents in Bronx, according to the news. He was only 22 years old.
On Saturday, his mother narrated she got curious by a noise from their backyard and when she went out to check, she saw Kalief hanged himself using a cord. Kalief failed to live his normal life after he was forced into a solitary confinement for a crime he insisted he never committed.
Saddened by the news, his death inspired Mayor Bill De Blasio to issue a statement on Monday, saying the plight of Kalief inspires his administration to do better for the Rikers. The mayor referred to a painful truth on what inmates who are confined in solitary at Rikers Island face throughout their jail terms — a declining mental health.
Kalief’s case was unraveled when a reporter wrote his story. He was sent to the prison in a solitary cell at the age of 16 in 2010. Kalief allegedly stole a backpack, albeit there was no trial held for him and of course, no conviction was issued either. In a story released by the New York Times, Kalief never regained his normal self. He was consumed by paranoia from three years of being in solitary at Rikers Island.
Jennifer Gonnerman wrote that many times before and after his release, Kalief attempted suicide. The first one was in 2012 where he tore his bedsheet and tried to hang himself inside his cell. He tried again in 2013, six months from his liberty and he was rushed to St. Barnabas Hospital at a psychiatric ward.
Gonnerman said Kalief simulated his solitary conditions at the Rikers. He isolated himself in his room for a long time and was never comfortable when he was surrounded by people.
Throughout his solitary confinement at Rikers Island, Kalief insisted his innocence. He recounted he got offers from prosecutors who urged him to enter into a plea bargaining and regain his liberty, again. Eventually, the charges were dropped and the prosecutors lost communications with their sole witness.
Before his suicide, Kalief completed his high school equivalency diploma and began community college after an anonymous donor sponsored his tuition. Mayor De Blasio said, “There is no reason he should have gone through this ordeal and his tragic death is a reminder that we must continue to work each day to provide the mental health services so many New Yorkers need.”