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A Poor Black Man, 22-Y-O Kalief Browder, Died June 6, 2015
Young, Black, Poor, Mentally Ill, Exploited, Wrongfully Accused and Preyed Upon at Rikers Island for 3 Years Without A Trial, Committed Suicide on June 6, 2015. He sought and found relief in death. Since the age of 16, when he was accused and locked up, Kalief’s life was HELL!
Like the Koch Brothers, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, The KKK, Rand Paul, John Boehner, Clarence Thomas, the Hollywood Jet-set, the evil-perpetuating guards at Rikers Island, the prosecutors who build their careers on the persecution of poor, uneducated immigrants and ill-informed, desperate and ill-prepared Americans of every stripe, Kalief Browder represents a significant part of America. That part of America most of us don’t want to know anything about. That part of America to which some of our aspiring leaders occasionally refer as proof that they are in-touch with “the little people.” It's a part of America that makes most of us uncomfortable. Since we believe that we cannot do anything about it, it's best to ignore it. We often underestimate the power of letters from voters, from us the politicians' constituents. America is only as good as the worst of us, and as bad as the best of us. Guards at Rikers Island --and at every prison in America where inmates are exploited and abuse -- keep doing what they do because it is condoned by the prison administration. Prisoners are things to be used or misused as guards and administrators please; there is no accountability. Why is that? Thugs pick on the weak and vulnerable; those in power use inmates as rewards to the guards/thugs from whom they want something. If administrators lost their jobs based on what goes on in their facilities, the crimes and abused would be reduced by 90 percent immediately.
“Kalief Browder was sent to Rikers Island when he was 16 years old, accused of stealing a backpack. Though he never stood trial or was found guilty of any crime, he spent three years at the New York City jail complex, nearly two of them in solitary confinement.” At Rikers Kalief was repeatedly brutalized by guards and other inmates. Some beatings were seen on videos. He was locked up for 3 years because his parents “reportedly” did not have the money to pay bail for him!
What kind of a system do we have where the most vulnerable (the poor and the mentally ill) can be treated so inhumanely and after the fact have politicians bemoan their abuse and tragic deaths?
The Justice Department and the City of New York are expected to reach an agreement this month on a reform plan that is intended to end the barbaric abuses that have long dominated the Rikers Island jail complex.
But this agreement will come too late to save Kalief Browder, who was held at the jail for three years without trial, starting in 2010, when he was 16. The psychological trauma caused by spending about two of those years in solitary confinement at Rikers remained long after his release. On Saturday, Mr. Browder committed suicide at his family’s home in the Bronx. He was 22.
Mr. Browder was accused of stealing a backpack, a charge he strongly denied. Partly because his family was unable to make bail, he remained at Rikers all that time, only to have the case dismissed.
The beatings he suffered at the jail were captured on video that became public in April. In one incident, Mr. Browder is brutally assaulted by a guard; in another, he is attacked and beaten by a gang of inmates. He tried to kill himself several times. According to a lawsuit filed against the city on his behalf, his condition was made immeasurably worse by guards who sometimes denied him meals, medical care and bathing privileges — and fabricated disciplinary infractions to extend his stay in isolation.
Last year, the city eliminated solitary confinement for adolescents at Rikers. The court system has put in place a new plan to shorten court delays and to prevent people from being held for lengthy periods without trial.
These are important changes. But a serious, legally enforceable reform plan will be needed to remake what a damning Justice Department report issued last August described as a “deep-seated culture of violence” at the jail. The report called for a thorough overhaul of Correction Department operations and also recommended that adolescents be removed from Rikers and placed in a facility elsewhere. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature could alleviate a great deal of suffering — and bring New York into the 21st century — by passing a bill that would keep children under the age of 18 out of adult prisons.
The Justice Department warned in August that the city would find itself in court if reforms were not quickly carried out. Federal prosecutors made good on that threat a few months later when they joined a pending class-action lawsuit, Nunez v. City of New York, which charges the Department of Correction with abetting violence by failing to discipline officers who participated in abuse.
By joining a lawsuit that was already underway, federal prosecutors put themselves in a better position to get a court-monitored agreement that would produce enforceable, verifiable reforms. Mr. Browder’s death makes it all the more imperative that the reforms have teeth.
A Rikers Island correction officer beat an inmate to death and then tried to cover up the awful deed with the help of two colleagues, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara charged Wednesday.
Jail guard Brian Coll stomped inmate Ronald Spear while correction officers Byron Taylor and Anthony Torres restrained him, prosecutors said. The three then allegedly concocted a story justifying the deadly 2012 beating and lied to investigators, prosecutors said.
Bharara said the charges were "more sad news out of Rikers Island," and vowed to continue pushing for reform of the troubled jail.
Coll, 45, and Torres, 49, are former jail guards; Taylor, 31, remains at Rikers.
Coll faces a charge of deprivation of civil rights for the beating, as well as obstruction of justice charges. Taylor faces charges related to the alleged coverup. They are expected to be presented in court Wednesday afternoon.
Torres pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice charges and is cooperating with investigators, Bharara said.
The alleged assault went down at the North Infirmary Command of Rikers, which is dedicated to seriously ill inmates.
Spear, who was being held on a burglary charge, had irritated guards by frequently complaining he was not receiving proper treatment for his kidney disease, according to the complaint.
On Dec. 19, 2012, the beef came to a head when Spear and Coll yelled at each other, papers charge.
Coll allegedly punched Spear in the face and body. Taylor, Torres and an unidentified guard then arrived and held Spear down in a hallway of the jail, papers show.
“Once Mr. Spear was restrained that should have been the end of it, but tragically it was not,” Bharara said.
While the inmate was face-down, Coll repeatedly kicked Spear in the head, documents charge. Inmates on the other side of a hallway door looked on in horror, screaming, “They’re killing him!”
The beating was so severe Torres attempted to shield Spear’s head with his hand — which was also stomped by Coll, papers claim.
Coll then kneeled down, lifted Spear’s head and told him, “That’s what you get for fu----- with me,” and “remember that I’m the one who did this to you.”
Coll dropped Spear’s head, which hit the ground with a thud, prosecutors said.
The 52-year-old died minutes later.
“The alleged coverup of this vicious crime began almost immediately,” Bharara said.
As medics, backup and an investigative team arrived, they agreed on a story in which Spear had swung a cane at Coll, justifying the use of force.
Taylor insisted, “I wasn’t there,” and Coll, Taylor and another guard obliged, papers charged.
An unnamed Rikers captain went so far as to order a guard to take a cane from a supply room and present it as evidence to investigators.
A rep from the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association urged Coll, Torres and the unidentified guard to keep their stories “consistent,” prosecutors said. The three allegedly went through multiple drafts before filings reports on the incident.
They then stuck with their bogus story during Department of Correction investigations and in interviews with the Bronx District Attorney, papers allege.
Taylor is charged with lying about his role to a federal grand jury.
An autopsy found the cause of Spear’s death was hypertensive cardiovascular disease, but also said that a physical altercation with blunt-force trauma to the head was a contributing factor.
The Medical Examiner also found that Spear suffered blunt-force trauma to the torso and arms.
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