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Bronx Man, Whose Rikers Imprisonment Sparked Reforms, Takes Own Life

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A Bronx man whose horror behind bars led to reforms at Rikers Island took his own life over the weekend.

As 1010 WINS' Sonia Rincon reported, three traumatic years at Rikers as a teenager for a crime he was never convicted of haunted Kalief Browder.

"I don't think anybody could really understand exactly what he went through. You know, but he could articulate it with such a fine recollection," Browder's attorney Paul Prestia told Rincon on Monday.

Bronx Man Whose Rikers Imprisonment Sparked Reforms Takes Own Life

Prestia said the 21-year-old had recently been recalling and reliving those excruciating memories of violence and solitary confinement in depositions as he hoped for a settlement and an apology from the city.

"Those memories of solitary confinement, I think that was the hardest thing for him," he said.

Browder's story, supported by video evidence that surfaced of his ordeal, led to Mayor Bill de Blasio's push to reform Rikers and speedy trial laws.

Prestia said the last time he saw Browder, who was getting mental health care, he was smiling.

"I thought that he was doing OK, but that was about two weeks ago," he said. "I couldn't foresee this coming."

Browder's mother found his body in their home on Saturday.

The mayor released a statement saying he and his wife, Chirlane McCray, were saddened by Browder's death.

Bronx Man, Whose Rikers Imprisonment Sparked Reforms, Takes Own Life

"Yesterday, the Browder family lost a beloved son and brother. Kalief's story helped inspire our efforts on Rikers Island, where we are working to ensure no New Yorkers spend years in jail waiting for their day in court.

"There is no reason he should have gone through this ordeal, and his tragic death is a reminder that we must continue to work each day to provide the mental health services so many New Yorkers need. On behalf of all New Yorkers, we send our condolences to the Browder family during this difficult time."

Browder had been studying at Bronx Community College, where president Eduardo J. Marta said he was working toward becoming a productive member of his community.

"Our hearts are broken today for Kalief represented who we are as a college, a place where many people who are wounded by the vicissitudes of life eventually find their way," Marta said in a statement. "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.

"That's why we must try our hardest to ensure that we give the very best we have to offer with kindness and compassion. May Kalief Browder rest in peace."

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