Kalief Browder, the subject of an award-winning New Yorker article about a teenager who spent three years in New York City’s Rikers Island without being convicted of a crime, committed suicide on Saturday, the New Yorker reports. He was arrested in 2010, at age sixteen, for a robbery he insisted he had not committed. Then he spent more than one thousand days on Rikers waiting for a trial that never happened. During that time, he endured about two years in solitary confinement, where he attempted to end his life several times. His willingness to tell his story publicly helped persuade Mayor Bill de Blasio to try to reform the city's court system and end the sort of excessive delays that kept him in jail for so long.
His attorney, Paul Prestia, said, “This case is bigger than Michael Brown!” In that case, in which a police officer shot Brown, an unarmed teenager, in Ferguson, Mo., Prestia recalled that there were conflicting stories about what happened. And the incident took, he said, “one minute in time.” In the case of Browder, he said, “When you go over the three years that he spent [in jail] and all the horrific details he endured, it's unbelievable that this could happen to a teen-ager in New York City. He didn't get tortured in some prison camp in another country. It was right here!” Jennifer Gonnerman, who wrote the story, won an award for it in February from the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, publisher of Crime & Justice News.