Shocking Video Shows Teen's Horrifying 3-Year Incarceration at Rikers Island

Human Rights

Ten days before his 16th birthday, Kalief Browder was arrested in the Bronx on charges of stealing a backpack. Browder would spend the next three years at Rikers Island, New York City’s massive jail complex, awaiting trial. He spent two of those years in solitary confinement. His case was eventually dismissed.

Internal surveillance videos obtained by The New Yorker show that Browder’s time awaiting trial in prison was treacherous. One video, from 2012, shows a guard slamming Browder to the ground while he is handcuffed.

The guard had approached Browder’s cell to escort him to the shower. “I just felt [the guard] tighten a grip around my arm,” Browder told The New Yorker after watching the footage for the first time. “In my head, I was wondering why he tightened it so tight, like he never usually does, and that’s when he swung me and kept trying to slam me.”

Browder told The New Yorker that when a captain arrived, the guard told the captain that Browder had attempted to flee. “I was on the floor going crazy: ‘He’s lying! I didn’t do nothing!’”

A second clip, from 2010, shows Browder at 17 years old being beaten by a group of fellow inmates at Riker’s adolescent facility.

According to The New Yorker, Browder was assigned to a housing unit ruled by a gang. Browder, who was not a gang member, says a gang leader spit in his face. Browder tells The New Yorker he felt he needed to retaliate or else be continually spat on. That night, Browder punched the inmate who spit on him. Moments later, footage shows about 10 other inmates beating Browder for an extended period of time.

Last year, The New Yorker published an extended look at Browder’s case. Read it here.

A spokesperson for the New York City Department of Corrections (DOC) responded to the video with a statement Thursday afternoon. 

“Safety for staff and inmates is Commissioner Ponte’s top priority, and DOC is looking into this incident, which occurred prior to Commissioner Ponte’s arrival at the department. The commissioner’s recently announced 14-point anti-violence initiative is directly aimed at promoting a culture of safety on Rikers Island.”

See the video obtained by the New Yorker here…

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