“Time: The Kalief Browder Story” showed a sad tale of innocence broken by a lengthy and unjustified stay in Rikers Island, one of the most notorious prisons for brawls and violence. A minor, who was sent to prison for allegedly stealing a backpack, refused to join gangs despite this meaning he had to fend for himself. Browder also refused plea bargains, which would have sent him out of jail quickly but would permanently mar his record and ruin his chance of getting a good job or housing.
There are several injustices seen in Browder’s case, and sadly they may still happen to other individuals accused–not even convicted–of doing the smallest crime. But the controversial docu-series pointed out one thing: Browder was not being punished for stealing a backpack; he was punished for being poor.
Wrong Place, Wrong Time
Browder’s case stands out because of several ways he has been betrayed by the system. It all starts from when he was picked up by a police car on his way home from a party, with accusations that he stole a backpack. He was 16 at the time and living in an impoverished part of New York. The story of the victim changed several times, and the prosecutors were not able to build a substantial case against Browder.
To Raise Bond Money
He could have gone home awaiting a trial that, three years later, would have been dismissed due to insufficient evidence and the victim being out of the country permanently. Why did he have to stay at Rikers, then? The judge demanded a $3000 bail, an amount that might mean little to some, but the family was simply unable to raise it. Had Browder’s mom found the right bail bond agent, he could have spent his time as a free man while waiting for the court to affirm his innocence. Any parent in Mecklenburg County would do what they can to protect their child from such injustice, which means looking for ways to get bail money quickly. One should also check that their child has not violated any provisions for eligibility for bail, to lessen the heartbreak that accompanies this process.
Integrity Becomes Punishable
Browder was smaller than his peers, but he was able to shed light on some of the problems in the judicial system. In New York, for instance, there is an overflowing backlog, which forces judges to rely on plea deals. While they seem like a good idea for anyone not wanting to spend time in jail, as they significantly reduce the sentence if the accused pleads guilty, thus waving his rights to trial, they sounded like a nightmare to Browder.
Admitting to guilt, even if it means going home, meant he was no longer free. It means future employees could see his record and deny him a job. It means he admits to stealing a backpack from a guy he has never even met. He was offered several plea bargains, all of which he refused. The real clincher is him having to spend almost 700 of the 1000 days in prison on solitary confinement.
Ask anyone, and they will probably agree, Browder was given a punishment too harsh for a crime that was too little. And that’s not even considering the fact that he wasn’t found guilty, he should have been treated as a minor, or that his trial has been delayed several times due to a witness prosecutors couldn’t find.