Sixteen is an age that kids all over the United States excitedly anticipate: the age they are given the opportunity to take their driving test, borrow their parents’ car, and experience their very first taste of freedom. Kalief Browder’s sixteenth year differed starkly from the “American Teenage Dream.” He was falsely accused of stealing a backpack, the young high school student from the Bronx was sent to New York’s infamously violent Rikers Island in 2010 to await trial when his family was unable to pay the $3,000 bail. What was supposed to take just a matter of hours- clearing Browder of the unfounded hearsay against him- took three years. Approximately two of those years spent at Rikers were in solitary confinement, where the bright, easygoing teenager sank into a desperate, depressive state. He was supposed to be going to school, playing sports, and spending time with friends; instead, Browder was enduring the physical and psychological consequences of being placed in a six by eight foot cell by himself for 23 hours every day. When he attempted suicide, the methods of which he learned from watching other inmates, Browder reported being denied food from guards as punishment. This is only a fraction of the cruelty and abuse inflicted on the youngster by both correction officers and other inmates when he wasn’t in solitary confinement.
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