3 years in Rikers Island, 2 in solitary confinement, this high school student, NEVER CHARGED, gets released
16-year-old high school sophomore Kalief Browder, of the Bronx, spent nearly three years locked up at the Rikers Jail after he says he was falsely accused of stealing a backpack. Amazingly, Browder never pleaded guilty, actually refused to plead guilty and requested a trial, even when pressured, but was never convicted and was only offered plea deals while the trial was repeatedly delayed.
Near the end of his time in jail, the judge “offered” to sentence him to time served if a guilty plea was entered, and warned him he could face 15 years in prison if convicted, but Browder still refused to accept the deal. The only reason Browder was finally released was because his case was dismissed, but the damage had been done.
Browder, a high school student, spent an unbelievable 800 days, or over 2 years, in solitary confinement, which is a common juvenile imprisonment practice that the New York Department of Corrections has now banned after several investigations.
How does a teen end up in jail for 3 years, of which 2 years was spent in solitary confinement, and never be charged with a crime?
Browder’s case highlights several broken mechanisms in the New York legal system that feeds itself to civil liberty abuses on our youth.
The 6th amendment gives us a right to a speedy trial, but in New York they have a “Ready Rule”. The “Ready Rule” allows the courts to postpone trial dates by offering continuances. The system may give a continuance for 1 week, but logistically it may be 1 month before the trial actually comes to fruition and the still not convicted civilian only gets “credit” for the 1 week, not the actual time they have served. In Browder’s case, he was given an absolutely ridiculous number of continuances initiated by the prosecution which left him locked up because he could not afford the $3000 bail.
Browder was a high school student and juveniles are supposed to continue their education while behind bars .. except for juveniles that are in solitary confinement. Guards would place juveniles in solitary and the schooling would stop relinquishing any educational support.
While in solitary, Browder says that guards would routinely refuse to give him his meals. Hunger is a common complaint by teens that are locked up because of the 12-hour stretch between dinner and breakfast. Guards would use starve tactics at their discretion for punishment or their own personal enjoyment. Browder says the worst of his starvations lasted for 4 meals in a row, meaning he was denied breakfast, lunch, dinner and another breakfast.
As it stands, the courts place people in these situations and it is human nature for some to strike a plea deal just to get out of jail. But Browder did not play into their game and take a plea deal, but maintained his innocence and requested a trial which came at a snail’s pace. This leads one to believe that the courts use this a planned tactic or procedure to play on human nature all in the name of getting convictions.
The issues of using a Public Defender have long been recorded across the country. In New York, court appointed lawyers make $75 a case. In order to make money, that PD has to take on huge caseloads which leads to other problems. Browder, although locked up for nearly three years in Rikers, where his PD was located everyday, never once was visited by his PD or had anyone to advocate his case for him. This shows a reckless disregard which leads to a vicious cycle of apathy that often leads innocent people to copping pleas or getting longer sentences.
Aisling Fahey - new Young Poet Laureate of London. Rachel Long - short listed Young Poet Laureate of London. Cameron Holleran - Manchester’s finest limerick writer. Antosh Wojcik - 2013 Roundhouse Slam Winner. Tyrone Lewis - Roundhouse Slam Winner, expert film maker. Amaal Said - most incredible young writer tearing up the scene right now. Charlotte Higgins - Winner of Slambassadors 2012.
alongside the WONDERFUL features: Paula Varjack international touring poet, slam winner and ‘Anti Slam’ procuer.
R.A Villanueva - author of Reliquaria (U. Nebraska Press, 2014), winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize”
I came on tumblr and I found a place where I could express myself,
Through the keypad of a phone I could define myself,
I could express the thoughts in my brain,
I found on tumblr people who liked the things I liked,
At a time where I felt alone
At a time where I wanted to be alone,
I could come and go when I wished,
I would post my thoughts,
I would learn about spirituality and health,
And how many different types of sexuality there are,
The limits of gender binary thinking,
Gain an understanding of privilege,
Find out about bell hooks,
Become fascinated by black feminist thought,
Become more connected with my race,
Become accustom with class and systems of oppression,
And go through stages of black rage,
Man hating rage,
To eventually realise that if I was to be angry I must channel it in to something,
I guess you could say I graduated from tumblr,
There were times I turned my back and felt too good,
But I always come back,
There is always a post that will shock me,
Always a link to more information,
Always people expressing themselves,
Always a space for me to express myself,
That’s why I have to thank you,
For making this experience one that has helped me grow,
And one that will help me for many more years to come.
I had some days,
Where I felt like my life was only going one way,
I felt broken,
Down in the dumps and open,
Had to question my actions and the words that I’d spoken,
Like am I really that guy,
Even though I knew the truth that I wasn’t that guy,
Made mistakes I’d made the effort to acknowledge,
So why would someone spread lies,
Like I hadn’t tried to empathise,
Like I hadn’t made an effort to reconcile,
I watched people spread dirt,
And trust me their vile,
I ain’t got nothing to hide,
I’m me and that’s the truth,
How you gonna accuse me of abuse,
Cause I’m not gonna lie I’ve been in a similar situation too,
But you lied and didn’t tell the truth,
And I’ve heard that you’ve lied before so when you lie again who’s gonna believe you,
What’s in the dark will come to light and all I did was stay true,
I ain’t running and I ain’t hiding,
I’m gonna do what I do best,
I’m gonna speak on a mic and vent,
You might think that the situations spent,
But I’ve tried to be diplomatic and speak about it,
I’ve been around the bush I beat about it,
Buts its never been about discussion,
Its never been about the truth,
All it’s been about is lies and all its ever been about is you.
So your heads locked up with rhymes,
The motivation to write that poem can be hard to find,
You write 3 lines,
You write 10 lines but you wanna write more,
You want it to flow but I won’t,
You fiddle with it,
Maybe its good now,
You wonder and hope,
Your searching for that wow.
You want the reader to understand how you felt,
But you don’t really understand your self,
You see poetry is like life,
You can’t be perfect,
So why do we try to be perfect with everything we write.
I really got to focus on myself, focus on developing myself, focus on my goals.
Sometimes I get lost, I’ll be so motivated, so focused on something and then a few days later I’ll lose that motivation.
And it’s frustrating cause I know what it takes, I know what I need to do, I know all the theory, I’ve got all the ideas, it’s just the practice:
It’s the making sure, I wake up and I’ve got a plan for the day
Getting up when I stumble, when I trip and remembering the many times I have done so before,
Loving myself enough to forgive my mistakes,
Being proud of my self expression,
Not allowing my self to become small at my own expense,
Not forgetting how much I have grown and that I will continue to,
And so, so, so much more.