Vulnerable and Inadequately Protected: Solitary Confinement, Individuals with Mental Illness, and the Laws That Fail to Protect

“About seven hundred, eight hundred”—that is the number of days Kalief Browder remembered being in solitary confinement. For three years, Browder was incarcerated at New York City’s Rikers Island jail (“Rikers Island”) before the Bronx District Attorney’s Office informed the Bronx criminal court that it did not have sufficient evidence to proceed to trial. When Browder’s brother would visit him at Rikers Island, he noticed that Browder became thinner and depressed following his time in solitary confinement. After two years of pretrial detention, Browder’s despair increased, and he attempted to hang himself while in solitary confinement. Browder returned to solitary confinement after a visit to the jail’s clinic, and all but a plastic bucket was removed from his cell. Weeks later, Browder tried to use broken and sharpened pieces of the plastic bucket to cut his wrist.

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