Kalief Browder, the young man who was robbed of his youth after spending three years incarcerated at Riker’s Island without being convicted of a crime, is dead of apparent suicide, the New Yorker reports. He was 22 years old.
The New York native hanged himself in an air-conditioning vent, according to the magazine, whose 2014 profile on Browder lead to a groundswell of support around him and his case. Browder was arrested in 2010, at the age of 16, for armed robbery — a crime he has asserted time and again he did not commit. Browder was denied his basic right to a speedy trial and instead left to suffer unspeakable abuse at the hands of prison guards and inmates over a course of three years at Riker’s Island penitentiary. Browder spent two of those years in solitary confinement.
The young man reportedly attempted suicide six times while at Riker’s, unable to cope with the brutality inflicted upon him. He suffered extensively from mental illness, including episodes of paranoia, upon his release in 2013, when the charges against him were dropped.
“Every day was a struggle. He lived with a degree of sadness every day since his release,” Browder’s attorney Paul Prestia said on Sunday, after confirming the news of his death. The suicide attempts continued after he was released from prison, though his attorney says had been doing significantly better lately, and was even pulling a 3.5 GPA in community college.
“Prior to going to jail, I never had any mental illnesses,” Browder told ABC 7 in 2013, shortly after his release. “I never tried to hurt myself, I never tried to kill myself, I never had any thoughts like that. I had stressful times prior to going to jail, but not like during jail. That was the worst experience that I ever went through in my whole life.”
Rosie O’Donnell and Jay Z are just two of the celebrities who reached out to Browder after reading the profile on him and his ordeal in the New Yorker.