NEW YORK – The city of New York has agreed to a $3.3 million settlement with the family of Kalief Browder, who spent three years at Rikers Island prison without being convicted of a crime and killed himself in 2015.
Browder was a 16-year-old sophomore when he was accused of stealing a backpack and arrested, later charged with second-degree robbery. He was released in 2013 when the charges against him were dropped.
Browder had just turned 22 when he hanged himself in 2015.
The New York City Law Department confirmed the settlement of the family’s civil suit.
“The family believes the settlement is fair and reasonable,” Browder family attorney Sanford Rubenstein said at a news conference Friday. “But they hope that his memory will be honored with the reforms that still have to take place within our prison system.”
Browder spent long stretches of time in solitary confinement at Rikers, he told CNN’s sister network HLN in 2013, just months after he was released. He described the physical and emotional abuse he suffered there. He missed his sister’s wedding, the birth of his nephew, his prom and graduation.
While at Rikers, he attempted suicide at least six times, according to a lawsuit Browder filed against New York City, its police department, the Bronx district attorney and others, including several corrections officers. The suit claims he was falsely arrested, maliciously prosecuted and denied a speedy trial.
Browder was hospitalized for five days in November 2013 after attempting suicide. According to his attorney, he was attending a community college in the Bronx and had a 3.5 GPA.
Browder’s former attorney, Paul Prestia, told CNN in 2015 that Browder was bright, humble and someone with a great sense of humor.
“Prior to going to jail, I never had any mental illnesses,” Browder told HLN. “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.”
Browder’s story drew national attention. Shortly after his death, then-Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy cited Browder’s ordeal in a written opinion, noting that at the time, nearly 25,000 inmates were serving sentences in solitary confinement nationwide.
“Years on end of near-total isolation exacts a terrible price,” Kennedy wrote.
In 2017, Sens. Kamala Harris and Rand Paul referenced Browder’s story in their bipartisan push for pre-trial bail reform.