This month, a Kalief Browder, a 22-year-old New York City man who had spent
three harrowing years in Rikers Island without a criminal charge, took
his own life. Now many are citing critical flaws in our criminal justice
system that led to Browder's death—including
Attorney Steven Brill, who has lent his insight in a new
Huffington Post opinion piece.
In "The Kalief Browder Case: First We Blame, Then We Reform,"
Attorney Brill shares his frustration over the treatment of Mr. Browder
and troubling shortfalls of our judicial system, all of which he claims
failed Mr. Browder at every turn. "Often, people speak of the criminal
justice system as if it is an amorphous blob with a life of its own. In
reality, it's made up of individual prosecutors, defense attorneys,
judges and correction officers," Attorney Brill writes. "The
system succeeds only if these individuals take pride in their jobs."
According to Attorney Brill, there is enough blame to go around: the judges
failed to honor Browder's right to a speedy trial and allowed him
to appear in court 31 times without a decision. Prosecutors failed to
prepare themselves to even try Browder for his minor charge and allowed
him to flounder in prison for three years. Defense counsel failed to advocate
for their client, meaningfully object to any of these proceedings, or
even petition for a release when Browder obviously demonstrated a low
Perhaps most disturbingly, the penal system not only failed Browder, but
victimized him. Just a teenager during his incarceration, Browder was
mostly held in solitary confinement and suffered routine abuse from guards
and fellow inmates alike. Now, following his death, it is clear to most
that the mental scars he carried from his time at Rikers weighed heavily
on him following his release.
The High Cost of Reform
In his essay, Attorney Brill notes that the silver lining to a tragedy
like this is the exposure of civil rights injustices perpetrated in our
judicial system and the possibility of meaningful reform. He points out
that officials, like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Attorney
Preet Bharara, are already taking steps to improve the conditions at Rikers
Island and establish new policies governing solitary confinement.
"True, all too often, we have seen the way these stories unfold in
the past. First a tragedy, blame and outrage, and
then the government powers react," Attorney Brill writes. "It takes
tragedies like the Kalief Browder case to bring to light the flaws in
the criminal justice system and to give the push needed to bring about
Read all of "The Kalief Browder Case: First We Blame, Then We Reform" here.
If you or a loved one believe that your civil rights have been violated
by the authorities, then we invite you to contact
Sullivan & Brill, LLP today. Our team is dedicated to providing personalized and diligent legal
counsel to those who truly need their voices heard before our judicial system.
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