USS recommends the CUNY Board of Trustees to confer an honorary degree to Kalief Browder

January 31, 2016

JANUARY 31, 2016

WHEREAS, Kalief Browder, who passed away on June 6, 2015 at 22 years of age, held an impressive 3.56 grade point average at Bronx Community College of the City University of New York,
WHEREAS, In 2010, when he was 16 and a junior in High School, he was arrested for burglary and charged as an adult in a case that would ultimately be dismissed; this dismissal, however, came after Kalief was incarcerated for three years in New York City’s notorious Rikers island jail; throughout his incarceration, Kalief maintained his innocence and his case never went to trial,
WHEREAS, While at Rikers, Kalief suffered appalling violence at the hands of guards and fellow inmates, and spent an accumulated and torturous two years in solitary confinement—where the teen was locked alone in a small cell for 23 hours a day; he spent a total 1,110 days behind bars because the courts delayed his case 31 times on procedural grounds; his family did not have the resources to bail him out of jail,
WHEREAS, After being released from prison, Kalief earned his GED and enrolled at Bronx Community College, and became a fearless advocate for prison reform, calling on New York City and the United States of America to take the steps necessary to ensure that those accused of a crime are treated humanely and that the practice of solitary confinement be eliminated,
WHEREAS, In his paper, "A Closer Look At Solitary Confinement In The United States," which he turned in to his professor on May 11, 2015, Kalief makes a poignant case against the policy of solitary confinement;  "I don't believe there's any place for solitary in our society," Kalief wrote; “It’s inhumane and I wasn't aware of its history, and now I am, and I learned it from Kalief Browder, who was the face of [solitary confinement] in this city,"
WHEREAS, On June 6, 2015, an already tragic story became more tragic when Kalief took his own life after a long battle with depression and the mental trauma that was engendered by his incarceration,
WHEREAS, Kalief’s story and his advocacy resonated locally and nationally, sparking critical conversations and new reform initiatives,
WHEREAS, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio stated: “I think his case was an eye-opener to New Yorkers across the board….there’s just no reason that someone should be held for a long period of time if they can’t pay bail and we can help, a modest bail level like that,”
WHEREAS, New York City Council Speaker Mark-Viverito stated: “The tragedy of Kalief Browder’s death is a call to action and further proof that our criminal justice system is in desperate need of serious reform. We have already paid a high price, as a city and as a society, for policies that senselessly incarcerate and abuse a generation of young people who have not been found guilty of a crime….From proposing the creation of a citywide bail fund, to leading dialogue on how to make the summons system more fair and just, to increasing accountability and transparency at the Board of Correction, the City Council is committed to bringing justice to all victims of this broken system”
WHEREAS, According to the Washington Post, ”President Obama said on Monday, January 25, 2016 that he was banning solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prisons, an announcement he made in an op-ed published in The Washington Post. In laying out his decision, Obama began by outlining the story of Kalief Browder, a young man who spent a significant portion of his short life in jail,”
WHEREAS, Browder demonstrated great courage, perseverance, and determination by maintaining his innocence during this ordeal and then becoming a heroic voice in the movement for prison reform,
WHEREAS, As Eduardo J. Marti, interim president of Bronx Community College at the time of his death, put it: “Our hearts are broken today for Kalief. He represented who we are as a college, a place where many people who are wounded by the vicissitudes of life eventually find their way. We do save lives. But Kalief’s death reminds us that we may not always be able to resolve the internal struggles that members of our community are facing,”
WHEREAS, The students of CUNY are proud and inspired by Kalief’s academic achievements, his advocacy for prison reform, and the dignity with which he lived his life; therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED, that the University Student Senate of the City University of New York recommend that the CUNY Board of Trustees confer Kalief Browder with an honorary degree.




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