Tragedy, discussion and change with Rikers Island

Stephon Johnson | 10/13/2016, 9:47 a.m.
New York City’s notorious correctional facility has been in the news a lot recently.
Rikers Islands, New York.

“Central to creating a more just criminal justice system is understanding how it impacts everyday New Yorkers,” said Jonathan Lippman, judge and chair of the Independent Commission, in a statement. “That’s why the commission is assessing the problems at Riker’s and throughout the NYC jail system from many angles and perspectives, including the impact of incarceration on defendants, their families and our communities.”

One of the people affected negatively by incarceration will have a documentary produced about him by Jay-Z.

Teaming up with Spike TV, the rapper and entrepreneur will chronicle Kalief Browder’s story in a six-part documentary about his life and tragic end titled “Time: The Kalief Browder Story,” slated for a January 2017 premiere.

Police arrested 16-year-old Browder after he was accused of stealing a backpack, and he was imprisoned on Rikers Island for more than three years without a date set for trial. Two of those years were spent in solitary confinement. Although the case was dismissed in June 2013, Browder struggled with mental health issues and eventually took his own life at age 22.

During a news conference call, Jay Z—whose real name is Shawn Carter—discussed how he reached out to Browder post-release after reading a profile of him in The New Yorker.

“He told me he was going to college,” said Jay Z. “In the movies, when this type of story is told, it ends differently. Then I got a call ... telling me that Kalief had taken his own life. I was thrown ... I was asking myself, man, this story doesn’t end like this. It’s not supposed to end this way. That’s not how this story goes, not in the movies, not in real life.”