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Kalief Browder is a boy who was wrongfully imprisoned on a burglary charge at age 16, exonerated at the age of 20 and committed suicide at the age of 22. He languished in Rikers Island prison located in New York for three years while his classmates went on to graduate. He further was violated by guards and other inmates. He learned to commit suicide in prison after observing an inmate attempt to take his own life. The paper will focus on the background of Kalief, his characteristics and the significance of the incident to the people, the factors that contributed to him being handled in such a heartbreaking manner and the intervention and the public policy that has to be implemented to curb future incidences of such a kind. Kalief Browder’s story will be described through the use of SEM diagram. The diagram will be of great help when addressing the individual, interpersonal, organizational, community environment and the public policy.
Kalief was a school going child (Mathias 1). He was an African American. He grew up in the Belmont section of Bronx. He was arrested while going home late at night from a party on accusations that he had robbed some man two weeks prior. He was in a company of a friend and were walking down Arthur Avenue, the main street of Little Italy (Gonnerman 1). Browder saw a police vehicle driving towards them and in second, more squad cars arrived and soon the two find themselves squinting in the glare of a police spotlight. An officer told them that a certain man has just reported to them that they had robbed them. The officers demanded to check his pockets but did not find anything in them. The two were handcuffed and pressed into the back of a squad car (Saunders 2). He was taken to Rikers Island prison without any arrest warrants. He was too poor to afford a bail and he also refused to take a plea bargain for a crime that was not committed by him (Sledge 1).
Many cases have been reported on police brutality towards the black Americans. Browder while in prison, a guard would only serve him one meal a day which comprised of leftovers which had been half eaten by another inmate. The mother Venida Browder while giving an account of what happened to her son, could not help but shade a tear. He shared an anecdote of the struggles that her son had to endure even after leaving the prison. Many stories emerge on regular basis about violence and corruption among the police at Rikers Island. The media covers the stories but nothing is done to curb the practices. The longstanding violent at Rikers has ruined lives (Gonnerman 4).
The use of solitary confinement has also risen in the United States. The total number of people in confinement rose by more than 20 percent between the year of 2007 and mid-2013 (Gonnerman, Before the Law 5). The report further indicated that almost 27 percent of those in solitary confinement are adolescents. The method was adopted as a way of controlling an environment that feels out of control (Gonnerman, Before the Law 5). The practice impacts negatively on the inmates especially during summer since the cells lack air conditioning (Gonnerman, Before the Law 6). Violence remained to be a threat even in solitary, verbal spats would always escalate with officers. Solitary confinement is applied as a punishment for different infractions. It can be used to serve as a technical offense for failure to keep a tidy cell, not using food appropriately and even littering. Its conditions, however, remain rather consistent as its aimed at barring those incarcerated from human contact. It, however, had positive impacts as well since the inmates tried something new. Some took up a study every day such as a high school diploma and worksheets were to be collected on certain days (Gonnerman, Before the Law 6).
Kalief Browder while in solitary confinement took a challenge of trying out something new. He decided to take classes and even took the initiative of reminding the captain to take the worksheets in case he forgets to take them on time. Browder would sleep with the windows open in the hope of feeling a breeze only to be awakened at 5 am when the cell filled with the planes roar since the runway was a distance of fewer than three hundred meters away from the Rikers.
Applying the SEM
Kalief Browder was black while the police that arrested and tortured him was white. The difference in races between them worsened the treatment accorded to Kalief. He was convicted of a crime that he never committed and was not given time to defend himself because he was black. He did not receive any trial until three years later (Sarah 2). In the New York, minority youth are more likely to be arrested and charged formally then transferred to courts meant for adults and be confined that their white counterparts. The probability of blacks’ beings sentenced to prison was six times higher than that of whites in the New York. was Akeem Browder, the brother of Kalief Browder has grown to become a tireless advocate of his brother and is advocating for reforms in New York. He is pressing to a new law that will ensure that will see to it that people get a speedy trial in the New York (Cahil 2). The criminal justice system failed Kalief since he was black.
Kalief was still a school going child when he was arrested. He had not known his rights as a child. Had Kalief known his rights as a child, he could not have accepted to be confined without charges. The windowless cells are also meant for adults and not people who are below eighteen years (Gonnerman, Before the Law 8).
Kalief’s family was unable to bail him out of the prison (Gonnerman 6). Kalief had told his family about being starved and the guards beating him around but the family never took the information in the hands of the police since they knew they would have to bribe for an action to be taken and the family was too poor to raise a bribe. Browder’s’ family could not afford to hire an attorney and that made the judge to appoint lawyer Brendan to represent him instead (Gonnerman 2) . Browder told Brendan the lawyer that he was innocent and he assumed that his case will take a short time to be completed. It was however never the case as there were piles of complicated evidence that were required to sift through. The case kept on being postponed until the evidence was distorted (Nazario 3). Browder while still on probation was ordered by the judge to be held and set bail at three thousand dollars. The amount was out of reach to his family this Browder to be taken to Rikers Island (Sarah 2).
Foster care kids have a high probability of being imprisoned since they are already in the system (Gonnerman 5). Browder was the youngest of the seven siblings and he used to stay in a two-story house made of brick near the Bronx Zoo. The mother of Browder fostered all his kids except the eldest two and he also fostered other children as well totaling to thirty-four (Gonnerman 5). A kid being detained causes a family to strain financially and even socially as the family has to keep on making visits towards the prisons to visit their loved one. It can also cause high blood pressure among the single mothers.
The father of Browder was not around and did not provide the guidance needed. It was only the mother that visited him in the prison every weekend. In the visiting room, Browder would give the mother his dirty clothes in exchange for clean ones. The mother also went ahead and put money in a jail commissary account to enable him to buy the snacks (Gonnerman 5).
Kalief Browder was given a plea by the police to confess and they will, in turn, let him go (Gonnerman 5). He, however, turned down the offer as he was determined to go to trial even though he knew that losing the petition would make him spent fifteen years in the prisons of the police. Rikers had a history of inmates who had to plead guilty to crimes that they never committed but this could not make Browder plead guilty, he was determined to get his day in court and had no idea how trials were rare to come by. In the year 2011, only a hundred and sixty-five cases related to felony had a chance to go to trial and the defendant pleaded guilty (Gonnerman 5).
Solitary conditions had the ability to make a detainee to lose his mind. The research shows that there are three times as many mentally ill people in prisons than there are in hospitals (Gonnerman 11). Inmates with mental illness have a disproportionately high rates of prison infractions. The staff does not have the required skills to screen for mental illnesses and this worsens the situation. Barriers such as lack of continuity of care make it hard for people diagnosed with mental illnesses to receive appropriate treatment. The prisons lack enough mental health professionals and therefore screening is left to prison officials who in most circumstances lack any mental health expertise. Kalief, when he had developed mental illnesses, was given a powerful dosage of anti-psychotic drugs which instead worsened the condition (McKinney 2).
The police should be taught about the criminal justice system so as to have better knowledge about it. They could not have put Kalief in prison as it was evident that he never robbed the man. The police, however, charged him with robbery, grand larceny, and assault. The correctional officers tortured him while in prison and leave him there for months at a time (Sledge 2). The police failed to investigate his case and also did not provide the minimum level of safety when he was inside the prison (McKinney 2).
Society/ Public Policy
There has to be a public policy that bails out those that are unable to afford the finance required by the prisons. There should also be a campaign that is against the use of solitary confinement as the mechanism is not only emotionally damaging but also psychological numbing (McKinney 2). In case the child proves to be out of control, he should be secluded from
other people that they are getting into the problems with and be left to calm down instead of the use of solitary confinement method.
Prevention-Race and Community Environment Factors
Racism has to come to an end in New York and all over the globe. Measures have to be put in place to combat racism. Before racism occurs, the society has to be educated on the negative effects of racism among the people (McKinney 2). After racism has occurred, the concerned party has to be taught a lesson and be an example to other people. They should be made to bear all the damage involved and compensate the person that has been treated unfavorably. There has to be a fine too. be paid according to the damage incurred (McKinney 2). The people that have been practicing racism foe a number of years have to be pointed out and be jailed for a period of not less than a year so as to act as a lesson to the community (McKinney 2).
People that have committed various crimes have to treated with respect. They should be treated as young people who are experiencing trouble and are in need of support. In addition, they should be given a safe place to stay while they are in jail. An agency has to be put in place and a culture adopted that is aimed at helping young people (McKinney 3). The staff also has to be trained so as to comfortably handle any situation. They should be made to undergo Safe Crisis Management training. This will equip them with skills needed to handle young people in ways that are acceptable by everyone. For the damage that has already been done such as wrong medication to mentally ill inmates, the doctors have to make sure that when they prescribe powerful antipsychotic drugs to patients, the should monitor the patient carefully (McKinney 3).
Intervention and Public Policy
What happened to Kalief is terrible. Interventions have to be put in place to ensure that another person does not lose life in such a manner. The issue of solitary confinement has to be done away with for good. Anyone found being a racist will be jailed for a duration of not less than a year.
Kalief was not to die in such a manner. It was such a great loss to the family and the society as at large. We should try to stress the positives in young peoples’ lives and correct the negatives. The police service has to be taught on proper ways of handling people who they think are in the wrong and the judicial system overhauled. Many factors play a role in the behavior of Kalief including lack of good parenting especially from the father. Young people should learn to share their issue instead of opting to end their life. It is, however, my hope that Kalief will find justice even when he is dead.
Cahil. "Discussing Racism and Injustice in Criminal Justice System." Lehman College 3 March 2017. Document. 24 April 20168. .
Gonnerman. "Before the Law." The Newyorker 6 October 2014. Document. 24 April 2018. .
—. "Kalief Browder, 1993-2015." The Newyorker (2015). Document. 24 April 2018. .
—. "VULNERABLE AND INADEQUATELY PROTECTED: SOLITARY CONFINEMENT, INDIVIDUALS WITH MENTAL ILLNESS, AND THE LAWS THAT FAIL TO PROTECT." HOFSTRA LAW REVIEW 45.263 (2014). Document. 24 April 2018. .
Mathias. "Here’s Kalief Browder’s Heartbreaking Research Paper On Solitary Confinement." HuffPost 23 June 2015. Document. 24 April 2018. .
McKinney. "Out of Time: The System Failed Kalief Browder, But it Does not Have to Fail Others." Vibe 5 April 2017. Document. 24 April 2018. .
Nazario. "Rikers: The Case for Closure." Close Rikers Build Communities (2017): 8. Document. 24 April 2018. .
Sarah. "Kalief Browder's Legacy: The Lie of New Yorks's Speedy Trial Statue." Columbia Undergraduate law Review 19 November 2017. Document. 24 April 2018. .
Saunders. The American Journal Of Psychiatry
12.2 (2017). Document. 24 April 2018. .
Sledge. "Time: The Kalief Browder Story." The Signal 20 October 2017. Document. 24 April 2018. .
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