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Verdicts & Settlements

New York Settles with Family of Kalief Browder for $3.3 Million

— January 25, 2019

New York will pay the family of Kalief Browder $3.3 million. Browder, imprisoned at Rikers Island for three years without a trial, hung himself in 2015. His death prompted city officials to enact numerous reforms.

New York City will pay $3.3 million to settle with the estate of Kalief Browder, a young Bronx man who committed suicide after being imprisoned at Rikers Island.

Browder, writes the New York Times, was arrested in 2010. Aged only 16 and accused of stealing a backpack, he was detained at Rikers Island for three years. He maintained his innocence for the entirety of his incarceration.

Throughout his detention, Browder’s case never went to trial. He spent two-thirds of his imprisonment in solitary confinement without ever being convicted of a crime.

According to the Associated Press, Browder wasn’t release because his family couldn’t afford to pay $3,000 in bail. Prosecutors eventually dropped the case and let the young man go free.

In 2015, aged 22, Browder hung himself in his parents’ home.

“Kalief Browder’s story helped inspire numerous reforms to the justice system to prevent this tragedy from ever happening again, including an end to punitive segregation for young people on Rikers Island,” said New York City’s Law Department in a statement.

“We hope this settlement and our continuing reforms help bring some measure of closure to the Browder family,” the statement added.

Image of a hallway of jail cells
Jail Cells; image courtesy of Carles Rabada via Unsplash,

Attorney Sanford A. Rubenstein, working on behalf of Browder’s family, said he’s submitted papers to a judge “to finalize the resolution of this matter.”

“It’s a fair settlement, given the tragedy of what happened here,” Rubenstein said. “While no money can ever bring Kalief Browder back, we hope the settlement of this case and the changes that took place at Rikers will result in this not happening to any other victims.”

Browder’s case, notes the Times, was first reported in The New Yorker. The article described how Browder recounted beatings by corrections officials and the indiscriminate use of punitive isolation.

Browder turned down numerous offers to plead guilty in exchange for a more lenient sentence, including one deal that would have led to his immediate release.

In the months preceding Browder’s suicide, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio ended the use of solitary confinement for 16- and 17-year olds. After the young man’s death in June, de Blasio said his story would inspire and enact reform at Rikers Island.

“There is no reason he should have gone through this ordeal,” de Blasio said, “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.”

De Blasio’s administration also took steps to begin moving youth inmates at Rikers Islands to juvenile facilities in the Bronx.

ABC7NY adds that New York is currently in the process of closing down Rikers Island as it attempts to shift its incarcerated to smaller, neighborhood-based jails.


New York City to pay $3 million to settle Kalief Browder lawsuit

Kalief Browder’s Suicide Brought Changes to Rikers. Now It Has Led to a $3 Million Settlement.

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