NYC politician wants Rikers Island renamed for Kalief Browder

On Sunday, Public Advocate Letitia James said during a press conference that if plans to shutter Rikers Island do in fact go through, the prison should be renamed in honor of Kalief Browder.

Browder captured national attention after his suicide and after his story came out, revealing that he had been horribly mistreated during a three-year stay in Rikers Island despite his case never coming to trial. He spent two years of the three in solitary confinement, all for the charge of stealing a backpack, before he was released.

“We must do everything in our power to ensure that our criminal justice system is fair, transparent and accountable,” James said during a press conference detailing a proposed plan to shutter Rikers Island and replace it with five smaller prisons for each of the boroughs.

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Despite the grand gesture, Browder’s family isn’t quite sure about the idea, with Browder’s brother, Akeem Browder, saying, “It’s really appreciative and thoughtful. But it’s something we’d have to think over. The people should have this victory.”

“Thankfully the time has come,” Akeem Browder said. “Maybe people will look at the Kalief Island, if they want to dub it that, and remember the tragedy that my brother went through.”

On Sunday, Mayor Bill de Blasio celebrated the closure of Rikers Island at Brooklyn’s Christian Cultural Center, saying, “Mass incarceration can be ended. It can be ended if we keep driving down crime, if we have the right approach we can end it. And I want to tell you something about mass incarceration. It didn’t begin here in New York City but it will end here in New York City.”