He could have gotten out earlier, but he would have had to take a guilty plea. He said he didn't do it. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn't. (But given his unwillingness to take a plea, I'm partial to believing he was innocent. But it really doesn't matter.)
Kalief Browder wanted his day in court. If he were found guilty in trial, he would have faced up to 15 years. Instead, after three years in jail, his case was dismissed. Charges dropped. He was released. A metro card and home. The end.
A few days ago he killed himself.
Browder never recovered from his time in jail. Could you?
We only now about Kalief Browder because the New Yorker did a piece on him last year.
There are so many problems here, it might even make one defend flogging.
How do we allow this to happen in our nation?
I wrote a book about the horrors of jail and prison. (Did I mention Flogging is short, light, a great beach read, and the most enjoyable book you'll ever read about whipping people?!) The pointless of it all. The system of justice that does not work. It seems almost pointless to regurgitate them here. And yet this case combines so many bads it seems worth a few highlights.
Browder was sent to jail as a 16-year-old. Browder, as documented on video, was beaten up by guards and inmates. Because of these fights, Browder spent two of his three years in jail in solitary confinement. Browder would not cop a plea, so he stayed in jail.
His bail was $3,000. His family couldn't afford to pay. So he stayed in jail awaiting a trial that never came. In 2013, a judge offered to let him go if he:
plead guilty to two misdemeanors -- the equivalent of sixteen months in jail -- and go home now, on the time already served. “If you want that, I will do that today,” DiMango said. “I could sentence you today. . . . It’s up to you.”Browder said he wanted to go to trial because he didn't do it. He faced up to 15 year if convicted at trial.
Then, on his 31st court date, three years after he was arrested, his case was dismissed. No trial. No conviction. Also no exoneration. It's like it never happened.
How can this great nation sent a kid to jail for three years without trial? This is third-world dictatorial bullshit.
One reason is budgetary. There are not nearly enough judges and court staff to handle the workload; in 2010, Browder’s case was one of five thousand six hundred and ninety-five felonies that the Bronx District Attorney’s office prosecuted. The problem is compounded by defense attorneys who drag out cases to improve their odds of winning, judges who permit endless adjournments, prosecutors who are perpetually unprepared. Although the Sixth Amendment guarantees “the right to a speedy and public trial,” in the Bronx the concept of speedy justice barely exists.So one answer, a partial answer, is to throw money at the problem. That ain't gonna happen. Because that would require us to actually care. But with more judges and lawyers, the justice system might actually administer more justice. Or at least bad justice quicker. But who really cares about justice when it's other people, poor people, being fucked by the system? Browder is dead because the system -- our system -- fucked him. And it's not like the system forget about Browder. This isn't our system not working as intended. This is the system we have. The least we could is actually care.