Kalief Browder, a 22-year-old man from New York City, took his own life this past weekend, an act that his lawyer says is directly connected to the three years of imprisonment he spent on Rikers Island.
In 2010, then 16-year-old Browder was detained on robbery charges that were dismissed in June 2013. Although he was never convicted of a crime, he stayed at the facility for years, facing violence from both guards and inmates.
Browder's lawyer Paul V. Prestia told HuffPost Live on Monday that his client's experience in prison, where he was routinely beaten and starved, prompted the suicide. Prestia said:
That three-year experience, that time in solitary confinement, was the direct cause of this. Not even just this last final act of his, but everything he's gone through the last two years. He suffered the last two years, maybe with glimpses of hope here and there. But that young man was suffering all the time. And he just couldn't overcome it. He could not overcome those nightmares.
Browder attempted suicide multiple times while at Rikers Island but Prestia said his death was still unexpected.
"This time, I didn't see it coming. I think it was probably a combination of things," he told host Marc Lamont Hill. "Of course, as we've discussed ad nauseam the torture, the solitary, everything that he had gone through that had always affected him. He lived every day with a certain degree of sadness."
Prestia also said the countless depositions and "cynical" cross-examinations, during which the truth of Browder's past suicide attempts was questioned, had been weighing on him. Overall, Prestia said that the justice system failed his client.
"The extent of injustice here -- it's a travesty of justice," he said. "This kid could have been alive right now. He should have been alive. He shouldn't be gone. He didn't deserve that."
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
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