Watch Venida Browder Explain How Solitary Confinement Destroyed Her Son

Before her death on Friday, Browder spoke about Kalief Browder’s experience at Rikers Island.
Oct 17, 2016·
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

The mother of Kalief Browder—a young man who killed himself after spending nearly three years at New York’s Rikers Island awaiting trial—has died.

Venida Browder succumbed to heart complications on Friday. She was 63. Browder’s lawyer, Paul Prestia, told the New York Daily News that “she literally died of a broken heart.”

This year, Browder spoke with The Marshall Project about her son’s experience at Rikers Island for the upcoming video series We Are Witnesses.

“[Prison guards] told him, ‘We’re going to break you,’ ” Browder said. “That’s what they told my baby, that they’re going to break him, and in reality they did.”

RELATED: One Year After Kalief Browder’s Death, His Brother Keeps Fighting

Kalief Browder was arrested in 2010 at age 16 for allegedly stealing a backpack, a charge he adamantly denied. Unable to afford the $3,000 bail, Kalief was sent to Rikers Island to await trail. He was incarcerated for three years—the majority of which was in solitary confinement—awaiting his day in court. That day never came. The charges were dropped, and he returned home in 2013.

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Although Kalief was initially happy to be home, he soon became isolated and paranoid, according to his mother.

“He felt that everybody was out to get him.... He stopped speaking to friends. He would get real angry,” Browder said.

Kalief hanged himself in 2015. He was 22. The Browder family has filed a $20 million wrongful death suit against the city of New York.