As part of our Anti-Gun Violence Youth Employment Program, the Mediation Center is has a “Youth Blogger” series of special posts authored by youth interns in the program. Read the post below by Youth Blogger, Trinity.

“Time: The Kalief Browder Story” is about a male African American teen from the Bronx, Kalief Browder, who was in prison for three years.  Two of those years were actually in solitary confinement, which is proven to make people mentally ill, before actually being convicted of a crime.  The crime which he was arrested for was a robbery, a crime which he did not commit so he pled not guilty but was held in jail with no bail. Kalief was beaten in jail by cell mates, jail mates, as well as the correction officers.  The officers even watched him get beaten by his fellow jail mates. After his release from Rikers Island in 2013, due to the prosecutor’s case having no evidence or witnesses, Kalief fought for justice. He received nothing except a metrocard, not even an apology for wrongly being kept in jail.  Although Kalief was released from jail, he still had a lot of things on his mind due to being is solitary confinement which caused him to commit suicide June 6, 2015.

This is a big issue in African American communities.  Many times people are given bail that they cannot pay which causes them to have no choice but to go to prison.  Then, when they are put in solitary confinement, that deteriorates their mental state. “We drove him to psychosis and then kicked him out the door and said deal with it on your own.”  This happens with many people that are put in solitary confinement because it is not healthy to stay in a room alone with nothing to do, this is a big cause of mental problems in prison.  Also, when they leave prison, even if the charges have been dropped, it is hard for people to get jobs which can also have a negative impact on their mental health.

This film helped me understand that many people in prison did not necessarily commit the crime that they have been placed in there for or just simply cannot make bail but that does not mean that they are a bad or stupid person and that solitary confinement is not a good place to be.  This also helps me look at mentally ill people in a different way because it’s not their fault that these “demons” that cause it have chosen to attack them. I would recommend this series to anyone who wants to know about the New York City jail system and the many things that go on inside a prison or during a trial.