Dartford, UK – This is a time of awareness, education and exposure. With police brutality and Black Lives Matter protests at the forefront, it is time – be it long overdue – for everyone in society to start educating themselves on important and life-changing matters.
The documentary Time: The Kalief Browder Story first came to my attention in 2018, a year after its release, after I watched Ava DuVernay’s 13th, another hard-hitting and thought-provoking documentary on the injustices faced by African Americans in the U.S. legal system.
That documentary provided unbelievable and devastating facts and stories surrounding the issues of racism, and after a short clip and brief explanation of Kalief Browder’s story, I couldn’t help but want to know more about him.
Time: The Kalief Browder Story, a television mini-series, reveals the heartbreaking story of a young black man who was targeted and condemned due to his race.
In 2010, Browder was on his way back from a party when he was arrested in a racial profiling stop and search and accused of stealing a backpack – a crime he never committed.
At the time of his arrest, Browder was only 16, a fact hard to swallow as a teenager learning his story, as one can only imagine the strength he had and needed to endure what was to follow.
The day after his arrest Browder was charged with robbery, grand larceny and assault.
Despite a presumption of innocence and the lack of evidence, he was locked up in Rikers Island, a New York City prison.
The system held Browder there around 1,000 days – including almost two years in solitary confinement – waiting for a trial that never happened.
During his time at the notoriously brutal Rikers Island, the film shows, Browder was also a victim of such inhumane and barbaric violence.
A video from Sept. 13, 2012, shows Browder being handcuffed and taken to the shower by guards to be assaulted. Browder himself decided to put the video online so the public could know what he had suffered and so no one else had to endure it.
Some of the most harrowing and painful parts of Browder’s time in prison were the two years he spent in solitary confinement – a condition fit for no person, let alone a 16-year-old boy.
His time in solitary had heartbreaking results, as no person should be abandoned by their fellow human beings, deprived of basic human contact and left alone to deteriorate without a bit of compassion or respect.
Having to endure this for nearly two years had devastating effects on his mental health. Following his release, he struggled to adapt to normal civilian life, but he died of suicide in 2015.
After learning about Browder and the injustice he endured, President Obama announced a ban on solitary confinement for juveniles in 2016. Another plan to remove prisoners under 18 years from Rikers Island followed.
Rapper Jay-Z, one of the producers of Time: The Kalief Browder Story, told the New York Daily News, “This young man got dealt a horrible hand in the way it happened, and [we hope] that his story and his life inspires others and saves other lives.”
The rapper added that solitary confinement for a 16-year-old is both wrong and inhumane.
This documentary not only explores the legal injustices faced by African Americans but highlights the emotional toll they take on the people who endure it, their loved ones and the community.
It exposed traumatic events so hopefully nothing like what Browder endured will happen again.
From its creation to production, story and message, this documentary is all about education and exposing the desperate need for both swift and long-term change.
By watching it, you gain an insight into the atrocities being committed on fellow humans due to the pervasive racism in the criminal justice system and what Kalief Browder endured and what many others continue to face.
Daisy Wigg is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.