NEW YORK — A young man who spent three years behind bars at Rikers Island without being convicted of a crime has taken his own life, his attorney told CNN.
Kalief Browder was a 16-year-old sophomore when he was arrested, and later charged with second-degree robbery. He was released in 2013 when the charges against him were dropped.
Paul Prestia, Browder’s attorney, said Sunday that Browder hanged himself Saturday. He had just turned 22.
“Every day was a struggle. He lived with a degree of sadness every day since his release,” Prestia said.
Browder spoke to CNN’s sister network HLN in 2013, just months after he was released. He described the physical and emotional abuse he suffered in jail. Browder spent long stretches of time in solitary confinement. He missed his sister’s wedding, the birth of his nephew, his own 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.
Prestia told CNN that Browder’s lawsuit against the city would continue to move forward. He described Browder as 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.”