New federal legislation named for Kalief Browder would give mental health aid to inmates leaving jail, Rep. Joe Crowley announced Monday.
Crowley’s bill would create a pilot program to assess the mental health of prisoners before they’re released, and then provide treatment to those deemed to need it.
It’s dubbed the Kalief Browder Re-entry Success Act, after the Bronx man who killed himself after spending nearly three years at Rikers Island on charges that were eventually dropped, much of it in solitary confinement.
“There’s a serious need for better services to assist those who have mental health problems while behind bars, and there’s an even greater need to help those whose experience in jail or prison led to further deterioration of their mental health,” said Crowley (D-Queens).
Paul Prestia, Browder’s family lawyer, said that “perhaps, just maybe, if he had been provided with some semblance of mental health just prior to and directly after his release, it could have changed his fate. But we’ll never know.”
“Kalief didn’t have that opportunity,” he said. “After 800 days and nights in solitary confinement, when Kalief Browder attempted suicide on five different occasions, including one just two months prior to his release, he was sent back into society without any mental health support or counseling.”
Officials announced plans days ago to shut down Rikers and replace it with smaller jails in each borough. The plan is expected to take a decade.
“It’s going to be another ten years until Rikers Island is closed, and for the next ten years there will still be young men and women of color coming from Rikers Island who need mental health counseling, therapy, and help,” Prestia said.