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Beyond Prisons – Episode 5: Shut Down Rikers Island Feat. Akeem Browder

On Episode 5 of the “Beyond Prisons” podcast, Brian Sonenstein and Kim Wilson speak with Akeem Browder, founder of the campaign to Shut Down Rikers Island and the Kalief Browder Foundation.

Akeem’s brother, Kalief, died by suicide in 2015 after spending three years at the notorious jail complex. Hist tragic story helped catalyze reform efforts in New York City.

During the interview, Akeem tells the story of his own unjust arrest and experiences on Rikers as a young teenager, years before Kalief’s incarceration. He relates how they both experienced the New York City Department Of Corrections’ infamous culture of brutality firsthand and endured numerous assaults by law enforcement and other inmates.

He shares advice he gave Kalief based on his own experiences and addresses the urgent need to improve mental health research, diagnoses, and treatment regarding incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people.

Akeem also comments on the status of the campaign to close Rikers Island and the $1 billion earmarked for new “community jails.” He described his experiences working with Mayor Bill de Blasio and other advocates in the city. He also tells us what abolition means to him.

Kalief arrived at Rikers in 2010 at age 16, when he was arrested and accused of stealing a backpack. He maintained his innocence and spent 800 days in solitary confinement. His case never went to trial and he was never convicted of a crime. The case was eventually dismissed and Kalief was released. A little over one year after Kalief’s death, their mother, Venida Browder, passed away from what has been described as a “broken heart.”

Akeem honors the legacy of his brother Kalief and mother Venida by working with elected officials, lawyers, doctors, college students and community based organizations to change laws, policies and regulations that devastate poor communities and families impacted by mass incarceration and solitary confinement.

Follow Shut Down Rikers Island on Twitter: @ShutDownRikers

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Music & Production: Jared Ware

Beyond Prisons

Beyond Prisons

Beyond Prisons is a podcast on incarceration and prison abolition that elevates people directly impacted by the system. Hosted by Kim Wilson and Brian Sonenstein.