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Video Shows Teenage Inmate Brutally Beaten at Rikers Island

Kalief Browder, who was locked up in Rikers Island when he was 16-years-old for allegedally stealing a back pack, endured harsh beatings from inmates and guards, video evidence shows.
Photo NYC DOC / Via The New Yorker

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As evidence of police brutality on young black men mounts, video just released on Thursday to The New Yorker magazine shows a teenager being beaten by correction officers and fellow inmates at New York City's Rikers Island.

In May 2010, as detailed by Jennifer Gonnerman last Octoberin The New Yorker, 16-year-old Kalief Browder was walking home with a friend in the Belmont section of the Bronx when a squad of police cars approached, saying a man had reported that Browder had robbed him. "I didn't rob anybody," Browder told the police. "You can check my pockets." The officer searched Browder and his friend and found nothing. Nevertheless, he arrested Browder, who was later charged with robbery, grand larceny, and assault. Browder ended up in Rikers.


Browder was detained for three years, while his trial was delayed by courts. He spent two of those years in solitary confinement. The charge was ultimately dismissed.

Video clips from the jail complex show guards slamming Browder onto the ground, while handcuffed, and being beaten by a gang.

The first clip, from September 2012, shows Browder putting hands through the jail cell slot to be handcuffed. The officer is seen handcuffing him. The officer escorts Browder out of the cell. They exchange some words, then the officer slams Browder onto the ground, pressing down on Browder's head.

"I just felt him tighten a grip around my arm," Browder told The New Yorker. "In my head, I was wondering why he tightened it so tight, like he never usually does, and that's when he swung me and kept trying to slam me." When the other officers came to the scene, the correction officer allegedly told them that Browder was acting up and tried to run away. "I was on the floor going crazy: 'He's lying! I didn't do nothing," Browder said.

The second clip, from October 2010, shows Browder being beaten by several gang members. Browder, who was not affiliated with gangs, was housed in a unit run by a gang. Browder claimed that a gang member spat in his face and Browder punched him, emphasizing that he had to fight back or it "meant they could keep spitting in my face. I wasn't going to have that." A group of around 10 gang members attacked Browder.

Browder was offered a chance to be freed from Rikers in 2013, but he refused to plead guilty even if it meant serving an additional 15 years in jail. Browder maintained his innocence and the charges against him were dropped a few months later. Browder has filed a lawsuit against the City of New York, the New York City Police Department, the Bronx District Attorney, and the Department of Corrections.

Federal investigators highlighted that the "deep-seated culture of violence is pervasive throughout the adolescent facilities at Rikers." The report also noted that the facility Browder was housed in was "more inspired by Lord of the Flies than any legitimate philosophy of humane detention."

In December, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he was going to end solitary confinement for juveniles, and all inmates under 21 at Rikers. The mayor is also attempting to reduce Rikers' population, since it was announced that 1,500 Rikers inmates were imprisoned for more than a year without being convicted of a crime. The mayor told The New Yorker that Bowder's "tragic story put a human face on Rikers Island's culture of delay — a culture with profound human and fiscal costs for defendants and our city."