NEW YORK, June 9 (UPI) -- Kalief Browder, a man who spent three years at Rikers Island prison without trial for allegedly stealing a backpack when he was 16, was found dead of apparent suicide Saturday at his family's home in the Bronx.
Browder, 22, was arrested in 2010, and held in the New York City jail where, according to the New Yorker, he faced brutal beatings from both guards and other inmates and was put in solitary confinement for nearly two years of his stay.
During his time in jail, Browder, who maintained his innocence and refused a plea deal, attempted to kill himself on multiple occasions.
Browder's story drew attention from high-profile politicians and celebrities including Rosie O'Donnell, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who cited the case while calling for bail and prison reform.
"I think his case was an eye-opener to New Yorkers across the board," de Blasio told the Observer Monday. "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."
According to the New Yorker, the young African-American struggled to gain back a sense of normalcy despite gaining his G.E.D. and taking classes at Bronx Community College. In 2013, he was hospitalized after a suicide attempt and admitted to the psychiatric wards of both St. Barnabas as well as Harlem Hospital after experiencing paranoia in December 2014.
The $20 million lawsuit Browder filed against the city in 2013 will move forward.
"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," de Blastio said. "On behalf of all New Yorkers, we send our condolences to the Browder family during this difficult time."