If there’s one thing Netflix is really good at, it’s dragging us down a rabbit hole after watching just one show.
It all started many months ago when I stumbled onto a documentary called, The Survivors Guide to Prison. It’s a crowdfunded presentation with a star-studded cast of narrators and producers, that delves into the negligence and villainy behind the American justice system.
Until watching this documentary I hadn’t the faintest idea of how corrupt the US justice system is.
I could have guessed the prison system itself was no good, none of them are. But to find out the actual judiciary system feeds into the lawlessness of it all? I’m dumbfounded.
If I remember it correctly, one of the subjects in the documentary spent 17 years behind bars as an innocent man, simply because the system failed him. While inside, he was forced to take another life to save his own. This innocent man turned criminal because he had to.
Now you tell me, how in the hell does someone recover from that?
Read on and you'll find out some of them never do.
The next documentary Netflix suggested was one that ultimately decimated me. When They See Us is another true account about the Central Park five who were legally children when they were all convicted of assault and rape. Yet there was zero evidence to back it up.
These five New York teenagers spent between 5 and 15 years behind bars after being told they could simply go home if they would just confess to the crime. They were all scared shitless and just wanted their moms, so they confessed.
And just in case all those stories aren’t messed up enough for you, let me bring you to the last documentary I watched. It rocked me to my core and made me feel like giving up on mankind altogether.
It’s called TIME: The Kalief Browder story.
You’d have to be living in a hole if you don’t know the name Kalief Browder because he became an international media sensation. He had the likes of Rosie O’Donnell and Jay Z backing him up.
I knew the outline of the story from the news years ago, but until watching the documentary I didn’t know the horrific details.
Browder was a 16-year-old Bronx boy who allegedly stole a backpack. Somehow, the words alleged and backpack translated into being imprisoned in one of the most dangerous and notorious adult American prisons — Rikers Island.
This child spent three long years there, without ever being convicted of any crime, nor offered a trial.
Image courtesy of Wall Street Journal
According to Wikipedia, an astounding 85% of inmates on Rikers Island (total population approx. 9000) have never been convicted of a crime. It is ranked as one of the ten worst facilities in the United States, and apparently, you can endure three years of torture there for “maybe” stealing a backpack.
Of course, they offered Browder a chance to confess to the crime in exchange for going home as a felon. But he wasn’t guilty so he stood firm, believing he would be offered a fair trial. That never happened.
The sickest part about the entire Kalief Browder story is that he made it through the torture, the beatings, starvation, and solitary confinement that he was subjected to for three whole years.
It wasn’t until he got out of Rikers that it destroyed him, and ultimately his entire family. Browder sadly took his own life because of the demons in his mind, courtesy of my good old neighbors to the south.
Those who stand up against racism and injustice say that if you turn a blind eye you’re basically contributing to it. Being complacent doesn’t mean the problem doesn’t exist. It just means you’re ignoring it.
I say the same about the injustice within this corrupt system. Unless you’re completely oblivious to it — which you can’t say now, because I’ve just pointed it out — you’re also contributing to it.
If you’re indifferent, you become complicit.
If you know it’s happening but choose to ignore it because it doesn't affect you, you’re perpetuating the continuation of a broken system.
Don’t think for one second that you or someone you love can’t end up tangled in the same web. All that needs to happen is for someone to think you stole a backpack.
They don’t need to prove a thing for YOU to end up the same way as thousands of innocent prisoners.
And if you don’t happen to have $900.00 in the bank for bail, just as the Browder family didn’t, there’s absolutely no hope for you.
There are so many dirty cracks to fall between that anyone’s life could be taken away in the blink of an eye.
Here’s where the big questions come in.
With all these documentaries surfacing for the entire Netflix-watching population to see, how is it even possible that nothing is being done to correct the system?
With all the press these cases have received, how is nothing being corrected?
America KNOWS it’s happening, yet they turn a blind eye.
In the Browder case, he appeared in court 30 times during his three-year incarceration. Six of those times were in front of the same judge. Yet, when that judge was questioned after his release, she literally had nothing to say. Not a word. Not an apology. Not even remorse.
How is no one being held accountable?
How are the human beings who work within this system okay with their own filthiness?
I’m genuinely asking these questions with a burning desire for answers. If I feel this frustrated I can’t imagine how the victims of these judicial atrocities feel.
US presidents have addressed the issues on national television yet nothing has changed. If a president doesn’t have the power to change things, who does?
#45 is even quoted saying that the “stop and frisk” method is working quite well in America. Wait, what? Tell that to Kalief Browder who was stopped and frisked.
Oh wait, you can’t tell him. He’s no longer with us. Neither are all the ones who have passed on before him in the name of stop and frisk, mistaken identity, living while black, or some bogus eye witness account.
The US prison system as a whole takes in over 5 billion dollars in revenue each year. Is that why no one’s in a rush to fix it? Human lives aren’t a commodity and the longer society takes to realize it, the worse off we’ll all be.
This is a real issue, a real first-world problem. We’re always called on to do better and be better. Think about what that means.
As citizens of this thing called life, we need to become humans that back up other humans.