June 1, 2016

‘Rikers Is Horrible’: Venida Browder Recalls Her Son’s Ordeal – And Her Own

In 2010, 16-year-old Kalief Browder of the Bronx was arrested for stealing a backpack – a crime he insisted he never committed. Nevertheless, he then spent some three years jailed on New York City’s Rikers Island, including roughly two years in solitary confinement.

Eventually, the charges against him were dropped for lack of evidence. Accounts of his long confinement aroused national sympathy and indignation. But while he regained his freedom, he was, unfortunately, never completely free from the lasting traumas of his ordeal, which included security video-documented instances of being knocked down by a correction officer and set upon by other prisoners. Despairing and depressed, he attempted suicide more than once at Rikers Island. Then in June 2015, Kalief Browder, age 22, took his life at his family home.

To honor his memory on the anniversary of his passing, Urban Matters presents this video excerpt of Venida Browder's recent powerful description of what she typically endured in visiting her son in Rikers’ bleak, remote lock-up. 

Venida Browder spoke with Glenn E. Martin, founder and president of JustLeadershipUSA. Browder spoke in April at the opening at The New School of “States of Incarceration.” “States of Incarceration” is a Humanities Action Lab project, now on national tour, intended to spark a dialogue about American correction policy. On October 14, 2016 Venida Browder died of a heart attack - or as The Daily News described, a broken heart.