Public Comment

Our Domestic Guantanamo

Tejinder Uberoi
Monday July 06, 2015 - 11:16:00 AM

Rikers Island, our very own ‘Guantanamo Bay prison’, has a long dark history of incarcerating and destroying young lives. One of the most egregious examples is the recent tragic death of a 16-year-old high school sophomore, Kalief Browder, who was detained on suspicion of stealing a backpack. 

He maintained his innocence and requested a trial certain that he would be soon acquitted; he was only offered plea deals during which time the trial was repeatedly postponed. He endured nearly 800 days in solitary confinement and was horribly abused by guards and fellow inmates. His case was finally dismissed from a complete lack of evidence. Traumatized by the appalling abuse he was forced to endure, he committed suicide a few days after he was released. It is doubtful if the tragic death would have received any media attention were it not for the persistent efforts of Jennifer Gonnerman, a staff reporter for The New Yorker who first reported Kalief’s suicide in her article "Before the Law: a boy was accused of taking a backpack. The courts took the next three years of his life." She later published exclusive surveillance footage showing him being beaten by guards and fellow prisoners. Mayor, De Blasio said he ‘deeply saddened’ by Kalief’s death. Let us hope he follows through with concrete reforms and holds the prison guards fully accountable for Kalief’s appalling abuse.