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But they made it clear that, if the inmates went to the clinic and told the medical staff what had happened, they would write up charges against them, and get them sent to solitary confinement. At the Bronx County Hall of Justice, they spent the day in a basement holding pen, each waiting for his chance to see a judge.
More squad cars arrived, and soon Browder and his friend found themselves squinting in the glare of a police spotlight.“Their noses were leaking, their faces were bloody, their eyes were swollen,” he said. On the morning of July 28, 2010, Browder was awakened at around half past four.Afterward, the officers gave the teens a choice: go to the medical clinic or go back to bed. He was handcuffed to another inmate and herded onto a bus with a group of other prisoners.An officer said that a man had just reported that they had robbed him. “You can check my pockets.”The officers searched him and his friend but found nothing. ” He remembers an officer telling them, “We’re just going to take you to the precinct.As Browder recalls, one of the officers walked back to his car, where the alleged victim was, and returned with a new story: the man said that they had robbed him not that night but two weeks earlier. Most likely you can go home.” Browder whispered to his friend, “Are you sure didn’t do anything? At the Forty-eighth Precinct, the pair were fingerprinted and locked in a holding cell.The amount was out of reach for his family, and soon Browder found himself aboard a Department of Correction bus. Staring through the grating on the bus window, he watched the Bronx disappear. Last year, the , in an extended exposé, described them as “crippled” and among the most backlogged in the country. 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.
Soon, there was water on either side as the bus made its way across a long, narrow bridge to Rikers Island. 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.
Browder had already had a few run-ins with the police, including an incident eight months earlier, when an officer reported seeing him take a delivery truck for a joyride and crash into a parked car. He told me that his friends drove the truck and that he had only watched, but he figured that he had no defense, and so he pleaded guilty.
The judge gave him probation and “youthful offender” status, which insured that he wouldn’t have a criminal record. as a place with a “deep-seated culture of violence,” where attacks by officers and among inmates are rampant.
“By the time it came to Kalief, my mom had already raised—in foster care or adoption—a total of thirty-four kids.” Kalief was the smallest, he recalled, “so my mom called him Peanut.”As a child, Browder loved Pokemon, the W. E., free Wednesdays at the Bronx Zoo, and mimicking his brother’s workout routine.
“At six years old, he had an eight-pack,” his brother said.
He knew that such privileges made him a target for his fellow-prisoners, who would take any opportunity to empty someone else’s bucket of snacks and clothes, so he slept with his head off the side of his bed, atop his bucket. When I went in there, that’s when I decided I wanted to get big.”The dayroom was ruled over by a gang leader and his friends, who controlled inmates’ access to the prison phones and dictated who could sit on a bench to watch TV and who had to sit on the floor. I’d have to fight back.” There was no escape, no protection, and a suspicion that some of the guards had an agreement with the gang members.