Pledge Created by Akeem Browder, for the Kalief Browder Foundation
New York Can Lead --Pretrial Reform Now
On May 25th, 1993 My brother Kalief Browder was born. Sixteen years later, after being targeted and profiled, he was falsely accused of stealing a backpack and jailed on Rikers Island. During his three tortuous years on Rikers -- two of them in solitary confinement -- he suffered countless episodes of violent abuse. The judge set bail. Our family couldn’t afford to pay it. So Kalief was stuck in jail.
On May 29th, 2013 Kalief was released from Rikers after the District Attorney dropped the charges and the case was dismissed. The dismissal did not change the fact that for three years, Kalief sat in jail for a crime that he didn’t commit without ever getting his day in court to argue his innocence. The system failed Kalief, our family and our community.
On June 6, 2015, my brother Kalief ended his young life. Pretrial detention forever altered his personality and mental health. Pretrial detention stole Kalief’s youth and his future. I’ll never get to see my brother become an adult nor groom him into the incredible man he could have become. All because we couldn't afford the $3,000 bail. Currently, more than 16,000 other New Yorkers are in the same position.
It’s been 3 years since the death of my brother -- and the problems that led to Kalief’s incarceration and eventual death have not been fixed. Many elected officials (and those seeking to become elected officials) have pledged to take action to fix this injustice, including Gov. Cuomo. I was there at his State of the State speech in January 2018 when the governor said clearly, to me, "I want you to know that your brother did not die in vain." I heard him say, without equivocation, "The blunt ugly reality is that too often, if you can make bail you are set free and if you are too poor to make bail you are punished." But change has not yet come out of Albany. My brother deserved better than a broken pretrial system that punishes people for being poor and Black. All New Yorkers deserve better.
We can’t wait any longer for justice. Please stand with me and my family as we honor and commemorate the life of Kalief by taking the pledge to end wealth-based detention and reform New York’s unjust pretrial system now.