Kalief Browder’s documentary, Time: The Kalief Browder Story, is a remarkable film that recounts every dark, depressing detail of Browder’s arrest at 16-years-old and his three-year stay at Rikers Island. Though Browder’s story was and still is a topic covered often in news as it relates to police brutality and mass incarceration, this documentary shared his story with an unparalleled sense of honesty and vulnerability. With footage from Venida Browder (mother), Paul Prestia (lawyer), and Browder himself, it was the real, raw truth.
After being stopped late at night as he was walking home from a party, Browder was arrested on the allegation that he had robbed a man two weeks prior. Without any evidence or arrest warrant, Browder was taken to Rikers Island, arguably the country’s toughest prison. He would stay there for three years because he could not afford bail and refused to take a plea bargain for a crime he did not commit.
In prison, he faced relentless abuse from the other inmates, who were mostly in their 20’s or 30’s, as well as torture from correctional officers who would sentence him to solitary confinement and leave him there for months at a time. At one of the most chilling points of the docuseries, Browder remembers a guard only serving him one meal a day and that meal was the half-eaten leftovers from another inmate. Giving unfathomably torturous details from Browder himself, the docuseries went into great depth about his unjust experiences at Rikers as a teenager and their debilitating consequences.
Venida Browder also gave her account of what happened to her son. Sitting in her long-time home in a humble neighborhood in Brooklyn, Ms. Browder resiliently shared anecdotes of the struggles her son had even after leaving Rikers Island. She remembers his paranoia, how he believed “they” were listening to conversations in the house or still plotting against him. In probably the most difficult scene to digest, she relives seeing her son hanging outside of his window after the mental strains from his experience in prison finally overtook him and led him to suicide.
Providing a rawness and attention to detail that is too often neglected in telling disturbing stories like Browder’s, the docuseries was very well directed. Even further, this story is articulated in a way that speaks to young people all across the country about our justice system. It shines a blinding light on just one of millions of stories where mass incarceration ruins lives, with absolutely no justification. It implores this generation to unabashedly grapple these difficult stories and have the chilling conversations about injustice in our country because without them, change will never come.
The docuseries tackles the complex issue of mass incarceration with unquestionable honesty and dedication to the truth, which is a skill exhibited too rarely. Capturing Browder’s story so well and expressing it without reservation made for a rich docuseries that will be referenced often in his legacy for years to come. A definite must-watch.