May 2010 was the beginning of Kalief Browder’s three-year horror story inside Rikers Island, the notorious jail complex in New York City. He had been arrested in the Bronx for allegedly stealing a backpack, a crime that he insisted he didn’t commit.
Browder, then 16, spent the next three years of his life in the jail, experiencing court delay after court delay before his case was finally dismissed in May 2013. Recently the New Yorker obtained surveillance video from within the jail that shows the true extent of Browder’s treatment while in jail. In the footage the teen is seen being thrown to the ground by a guard and getting beaten up by fellow inmates.
As the New Yorker notes, the teen spent about two of his years at Rikers in solitary confinement. At one point, in September 2012, a guard comes to his door to escort him to the shower. Browder is cuffed through the door slot and then the guard leads him away. The teen turns as if he is saying something to the guard before the guard starts attempting to push him to the floor violently.
“I just felt him tighten a grip around my arm,” Browder told the New Yorker, describing the incident as he watched it on tape for the first time. “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.”
A captain arrives on the scene, at which point the guard says that the teen was trying to run.
“I was on the floor going crazy: ‘He’s lying! I didn’t do nothing!’” Browder said.
Browder ended up being punished with more days in solitary confinement after the incident.
“If I would’ve went to Bing court [the solitary-confinement unit], I would’ve told them to look at the camera, and they would’ve seen I didn’t do anything. After that happened, to be honest, I was scared to come out of my cell to get in the shower again, because I felt, if I come out of my cell and he slams me again, then I’m going to get more box days,” Browder said.
In October 2010, a few months after his arrest, Browder was assigned to a housing unit that was ruled by a gang, the New Yorker notes. Browder was not a member of that gang, and at some point during his time there, a gang leader reportedly spit in his face.
The teen decided he couldn’t take that treatment because it would have meant “they could keep spitting in my face. I wasn’t going to have that.” So Browder stood up for himself and punched the gang leader shortly before guards responded and started to lock inmates in their cells.
Browder found himself at the center of a beat-down, surrounded by almost a dozen other inmates.
Watch the footage below:
Read more at the New Yorker.