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In America, a 16-year-old spent 3 years in jail without a trial for a crime he didn't commit.

Have you heard of Kalief Browder? If you haven't, you really need to.

In America, a 16-year-old spent 3 years in jail without a trial for a crime he didn't commit.
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Open Society Foundations

Imagine being put in jail for three years without a trial for a crime you didn't commit. At the age of 16.

You're a 16-year-old kid, a sophomore in high school, coming home from a party.

You're a 16-year-old kid. Some officers stop you and accuse you of stealing a backpack from a stranger. They arrest you with no evidence. They have no backpack, no fingerprints, and you have an alibi. They take you to Rikers Island.


You're a 16-year-old kid. You can't afford $10,000 in bail and neither can your family. You sit in Rikers Island prison. Waiting for a trial date. During your entire sophomore year of high school.

You're a 16-year-old kid. You are in a high security prison. You are abused by guards and inmates alike. Without a trial date. For almost three years.

You don't have to imagine it. Many kids have gone through this.

On May 14, 2010, 16-year-old Kalief Browder was picked up, and he was held, without trial, for 33 months in one of the most dangerous prisons in America without evidence.

GIF via ABC 7 News interview with Kalief Browder.

He was then released without charges — after five-six suicide attempts, after spending over 800 days in solitary confinement, and after The New Yorker exposed brutal beatings at the hands of the prison guards and prisoners.

For Kalief, leaving prison didn't make things better.

On June 6, 2015, after struggling from trauma and mental health issues stemming from three years locked up in a hole for a crime he didn't commit, Kalief died by suicide. He hung himself out his home's second-story window using the cord from an air conditioner. Make no mistake, the system broke him. And he's not the only victim.

There are over 400 others just like Kalief currently trapped on Rikers Island without justice.


According to a powerful (and disturbing) New York Times story, something that should be illegal in America has become the norm:

So how the hell do we prevent this from happening in the future?

In Kalief's case, there was no evidence of him stealing a backpack. There was no risk that he would harm anyone. He shouldn't have had to live in a 7-by-12 cell without a trial for three years simply because he couldn't afford bail. He was 16 years old when New York upended his life. A kid.

The Pretrial Justice Institute is fighting to prevent more stories like Kalief's. The first step, which has been successful in Washington, D.C., is to overhaul bail.


Most of the people in jail haven't had a trial yet and many are too poor to afford bail.

Jail, which is used for sentences under a year and for people awaiting trial, is actually mostly used for people who haven't had their day in court yet. This is different from prison, which is where people go for extended periods of time after they've been sentenced. It's unfair to the accused and an expensive waste of taxpayer money.

Being poor, statistically, puts you at much greater risk of going away for a long time.

Being in jail for a crime you haven't yet been convicted of can take a toll on your life.

At Rikers Island, some people can wait years for a trial. They get so desperate they plead guilty just to get out sooner.

But! There's a better way to handle this. Replace bail with something called "pretrial risk assessment."

It works like this:

People are evaluated on their risk factors. Those who are deemed a threat stay behind bars. Those who aren't likely to commit a crime while awaiting their court date are sent home with supervision.

Using supervision rather than jail is much less expensive for taxpayers and much more humane.

Here's how much it costs per day:

Risk Assessment is already working in Washington, D.C.

In 2011, only 20% of defendants were held in jail. 88% never missed a single court date. Only 12% had another arrest while awaiting trial. And only 1% of those released committed a violent crime while waiting for trial.

Imagine a world where people of all income levels were treated fairly in the court of law.

You don't have to imagine actually. You can learn more by watching John Oliver's segment on bail. And, more importantly, check out how you can help by visiting the folks who made this infographic:

They have a petition for the end of cash bail that you could sign that will be heading to Governor Cuomo's office.

Let's make sure we never see a 16-year-old kid have to say these words again:

GIF via ABC 7 News interview with Kalief Browder

You can watch an in-depth interview with Kalief prior to his death here, and you can learn more about Kalief's life and death from the reporter who covered his story. And you can also read The New Yorker's powerful obituary for Kalief.


Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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