Family of Kalief Browder, young man who killed himself after jail, gets $3.3M from New York

Browder was 16 when he was picked up for allegedly stealing a backpack and jailed at Rikers Island for three years.
Image: Flowers rest on top of pictures of Browder in New York
Flowers and pictures of Kalief Browder, in New York, on June 11, 2015. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed to push reforms at the city's troubled Rikers Island prison complex after Browder, 22, killed himself. He had been held at Rikers for three years without being convicted of a crime.Lucas Jackson / Reuters file

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By David K. Li

New York City will pay $3.3 million to the estate of a young man who killed himself after a three-year jail stint over a minor theft case than never went to trial, lawyers said Thursday.

Details of the deal between the city and the estate of Kalief Browder are still being hammered out, but they have settled on that dollar figure, according to the New York City Law Department and an attorney for the estate.

Browder's highly publicized case drew the attention of celebrities and helped spur calls for criminal justice reform.

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Browder was just 16 when he was picked up in 2010 for allegedly stealing a backpack and jailed at the notorious Rikers Island for what turned out to be three years, two of them in solitary confinement.

The case was dropped and Browder was released. But he took his own life in 2015, due in part to the violence and psychological damage suffered at Rikers, family members said.

"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," according to a statement by the New York City Law Department.

"We hope that this settlement and our continuing reforms help bring some measure of closure to the Browder family."

Browder's mother died a year and a half ago, but he is survived by six siblings and his father. The family will continue to push for jail reform to address issues of solitary confinement and younger inmates being kept with older ones, according to family lawyer Scott Rynecki.

“The family views this as step toward closure. However they are still looking forward to additional changes being made” to the jail system, Rynecki told NBC News.

Browder's story gained national attention after an article in The New Yorker magazine and a docuseries produced by Jay-Z.

The city has announced plans to close Rikers Island by 2027.