The mother of Kalief Browder— the 22 year-old who committed suicide in 2015 after suffering from depression and other mental issues after spending three years at Riker’s Island though he was never convicted of a crime— has died.
Venida Browder died on Friday (Oct. 14) from complications of heart attack, but her lawyer, Paul Priesta, says her death is really due to a having a broken heart after her son’s tragic death. Ms. Browder was 63 years-old, and died at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx.
Kalief’s case became a major talking point in the push to end mass incarceration and to encourage prison reform after he was arrested at 16 while walking home from a party, Police accused him of robbing someone’s backpack, a claim which Browder denied. His family couldn’t afford the $3,000 bail, and he spent three years in Rikers Island prison without ever being convicted of a crime. Additionally, he spent nearly two years in solitary confinement, and told his relatives stories about how he was beaten and starved by guards while in prison.
Following his release from prison, he attempted suicide in 2013, after having attempted suicide while in prison “five or six times” according to reports. In 2015 he died at 22 years old after hanging himself with bedsheets in his Bronx home. His story became a national point of discussion about solitary confinement for juveniles (Obama later banned the practice) and the criminalization of black boys. Acclaimed director Ava DuVernay chronicled his story in her award-worthy Netflix documentary about mass incarceration, 13th.
“Kalief Browder is a modern-day prophet; his story a failure of the judicial process,” Jay Z said. “A young man, and I emphasize young man, who lost his life because of a broken system. His tragedy has brought atrocities to light and now we must confront the issues and events that occurred so other young men can have a chance at justice.”
The series will air next January and will feature first person accounts, interviews with family members, friends, and politicians involved with the case, and archival footage. The news of the death of Ms. Browder is yet another tragic occurrence in a despicable set of circumstances.
Priesta described Kalief’s mother “a woman of incredible grace and compassion who tirelessly fought for justice for her son Kalief and who championed the civil rights of others in our city.”