During a fundraiser in Baltimore County on Tuesday, GOP Presidential candidate and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul addressed current issues with criminal justice in the United States, and urged Maryland Republicans to think about why many African Americans mistrust the justice system.
Paul brought up the story of Kalief Browder, an African American who recently committed suicide, after spending three years in a jail at Riker’s Island, without trial. Browder was arrested in 2010, when he was 16, for allegedly stealing a backpack, and because he wasn’t able to make bail, he stayed at Riker’s until his case was dismissed.
“I’ve been telling this story for about a year and a half, two years now,” Paul said. “It makes me sad. I thought about not telling the story again. But I think this young man’s memory should help us to try to change things. He died this weekend. He committed suicide. His name was Kalief Browder. He was a 16-year-old teenager from the Bronx. He was arrested, accused of a crime, and sent to Rikers.”
Kelley and I extend our most heartfelt sorrow and deepest condolences to the family of Kalief Browder. May his soul rest in peace.
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) June 8, 2015
The New York Times noted that during his time at Rikers, Browder suffered psychological trauma from spending nearly two of the three years in solitary confinement, and physical trauma as a result of several beatings, including one incident when Browder was “brutally assaulted by a guard.”
As Truth In Media previously reported, the Department of Justice released a report in Aug. 2014, which concluded that corrections officers at Riker’s Island “regularly violated the constitutional rights of teenage prisoners by consistently and swiftly resorting to violence in their handlings with them.”
“Are we going to let you be raped and murdered and pillaged before you’ve been convicted?” Paul asked. “He wasn’t even convicted! So when I see people angry and upset, I’m not here to excuse violence in the cities, but when I see people angry, I see where some of the anger is coming from.”
Paul said that although he can’t personally relate, looking at the odds young black men currently face in the US has helped him to understand the unrest and frustration felt by young men such as Browder.
“This young man, 16 years old,” Paul said. “Imagine how his classmates feel about American justice. Imagine how his parents feel. So the thing is until you walk in someone else’s shoes, I think we shouldn’t say that we can’t understand the anger of people.”
Paul also said that he holds the Democrats accountable for the current conditions, and he believes they have “utterly failed our inner cities, and utterly failed the poor.”
“A lot of these policies came from Bill Clinton,” Paul said. “In Ferguson, for every 100 black women, there are 60 black men. That’s because 40 are incarcerated. Am I saying they did nothing wrong and it’s all racism? No. What I am telling you is that white kids don’t get the same justice.”
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