By Graham Rayman
The city will pay $3.3. million to the family of a man who killed himself after spending three years -- much of it in solitary confinement -- on Rikers Island, the Daily News has learned.
"The settlement is fair and reasonable," said attorney Sanford Rubenstein, who represented Kalief Browder's loved ones in their lawsuit against the city. The deal will be finalized by Bronx Supreme Court Judge Mitchell Danziger.
Browder, 22, hanged himself with an air-conditioning cord in his Bronx home in June 2005. He was only 16-years-old when he was jailed for allegedly stealing another teen's backpack in May 2010. His family couldn't pay the $3,000 bail so he found himself marooned on Rikers, where he said he endured beatings by correction officers and 400 days in solitary confinement. The charges against him were dropped.
The trauma never left him. After he died, a movement centered on reforming of Rikers blossomed, with the rapper Jay Z producing a moving six-part documentary of Browder's life. The film showed Browder being slammed to the floor by a correction officer taking him from his cell to the shower in 2012. "After that happened, to be honest, I was scared to come out of my cell to get in the shower again," he told the New Yorker.
Other footage showed him being beaten by 10 other teen inmates in a wild brawl on Oct. 20, 2010.
Browder's mother Venida who died of a heart attack at the age of 63 in 2015, never got past the loss of her son.
Mayor de Blasio has since ended solitary confinement for 16- and 17-year-old inmates, and fueled the End Rikers movement which aims to shut down the isolating island jail system and create a network of borough holding facilities.
"Kalief Browder's story helped inspire numerous reforms to the justice system to prevent this tragedy from ever happening again, including an end to punitive segregation for young people on Rikers Island," a city Law Department spokesman said. "We hope that this settlement and our continuing reforms help bring some measure of closure to the Browder family."
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