In an effort to bring about justice for Kalief Browder, last week the New York State Assembly passed law S 5988-A /A 8296-A, also referred to as “Kalief’s Law,” in a move to reform New York’s speedy trial provision ensuring that people arrested actually receive a speedy trial and aren’t held in pretrial custody for longer than needed.
The law comes following the tragic suicide death of Browder, a then 16-year old Black male who was accused of stealing a backpack and spent three years in New York’s ill-famed Rikers Island’s pretrial detention center. Browder’s time spent totaled over 1,000 days with approximately 700 of those days being spent in solitary confinement.which included approximately 700 days in solitary confinement. His case was eventually dismissed.
Eventually, Browder’s case was dismissed and he went public with details of his experiences through various interviews and appearances, hoping to shine a light on the defective system that contributed to those dreadful three years. Disturbingly, in 2015 Browder committed suicide as a result of depression developed from his experiences.
Browder spent over two years in solitary confinement, an environment that has been shown to trigger breakdowns both physically and mentally. In addition to his steady confinement in the 6-foot by 8-foot cell, Browder was subject to barbarous attacks from both guards and inmates and long periods of starvation.
It was just last December that Mayor Bill de Blasio passed a ruling that no 16 or 17-year-olds would spend any time in solitary confinement and the Justice Department went on to sue Riker’s Island prison while pushing for reform.
“For too long, the constitutionally guaranteed right to a speedy trial has been denied in New York. Our broken Rockefeller-era law does nothing to guarantee to a speedy trial for the accused,” said New York State Senator Daniel Squadron, cosponsor of the bill in conjunction with Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry. “In fact, it does the exact opposite, protecting a system that too often delays justice at the cost of defendants, victims and the taxpayers.”
The Sixth Amendment was created to guarantee the right to a speedy trial and is implemented in New York State through the Criminal Procedure Law 30.30. But the law, according to the Amsterdam News, presents loopholes that, when combined with court backlogs, can lead to long delays for people who were charged with but failed to be convicted of a crime.
“The bill’s passage in the Assembly by the overwhelming margin of 138-2 shows that our lawmakers are finally hearing the voices of the many organizations and thousands of activists who have been fighting for a more just criminal justice system,” said criminal justice activist Glenn Martin of JustLeadership USA. “We call on the Senate to take up and pass S.5998-A as soon as possible and make the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution’s promise of a speedy trial a reality in New York.”
Senator Squadron has stated that he has filed a Motion for Committee Consideration to force a vote on the bill by the Senate Codes Committee, however, the Senate Republican majority refused to schedule a vote.
The New York State Senate has until this Friday to add “Kalief’s Law” to the books.