Published on June 9th, 2015


The Criminal Justice System That Destroyed Kalief Browder


Elizabeth Nolan Brown linked to a piece at The New Yorker this morning about the suicide of Kalief Browder, 22, who spent three years at Rikers Island, often stuck in solitary confinement, without ever seeing a trial. The journalist, Jennifer Gonnerman, originally dove deep into Browder’s case back in October, and it’s worthy of a read.

The thing to understand about Browder, as is often the case when we hear about abuses within the criminal justice system, is that his situation is not as anomalous as some people think. Browder is not really an outlier, though his case may seem particularly outrageous. The New York City courts have a particularly bad reputation for not remotely having anything resembling speedy trials. From a report in 2013 from WNYC:

Over the past decade, as New York City’s backlog of felony cases has grown, so too has the time defendants are spending behind bars before trial. The average pretrial detention in a felony case was 95 days in 2012 — up 25 percent from a decade earlier, despite a drop in new felony cases, according to a recent report from City University of New York researchers. And some defendants spend significantly longer behind bars. Of the people who spent time in jail during 2012, about 3,200 were behind bars for a year or more awaiting their day in court, according to city data.

The context for that reporting was for the case of Donavan Drayton, who was arrested and charged with murder and spent five years behind bars before getting his trial. He was acquitted.

Source: Reason Magazine. Read full article.

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