Video via The Marshall Project's We Are Witnesses series
Venida Browder, the mother of Kalief Browder, died Friday from complications due to a heart attack just 16 months after her son hanged himself in the wake of three harrowing years on Rikers Island, the New York Daily News reports. She was 63 years old.
Browder became a champion for criminal justice reform after her son was arrested at age 16 for allegedly stealing a backpack. He was kept on Rikers Island mostly because his family could not pay his $3,000 bail, and spent roughly two years in solitary confinement. The experience would go on to permanently affect him psychologically and, two years after the charges were dropped and less than two weeks after he turned 22, he committed suicide.
Despite her tireless work to share her son's story and fight for criminal justice reform, Browder's lawyer Paul Pestia told the Daily News, "The stress from this crusade coupled with the strain of the pending lawsuits against the city and the pain from the death were too much to for her to bear. In my opinion, she literally died of a broken heart."
Before her death, Browder shared her son's ordeal with the Marshall Project in an emotional interview, for its upcoming We Are Witnesses series. You can watch the video above, and read more about Browder's time at Rikers here.