A Shameful Story Gets Its Due in ‘Time: The Kalief Browder Story’

Client: Jenner Furst - Director, Nick Sandow & Mike Gasparro - Executive Producers Date: 03-29-2017

Spike, the home of “Lip Sync Battle” and “Ink Masters,” is perhaps not the type of channel where you’d expect to find one of the season’s most significant docu-series. Yet “Time: The Kalief Browder Story” is just that.

It’s a six-part examination of a shameful chapter in New York’s recent history that is also a dismaying case study of the overwhelming shortcomings of the law enforcement, criminal justice and penal systems. Part 5 airs Wednesday night.

Mr. Browder’s story, infuriating and ultimately heartbreaking, is well known to New Yorkers, but it’s told from the beginning, and from the assumption that viewers don’t know how it ends. Mr. Browder was 16 in 2010 when the police picked him up in the Bronx on suspicion of stealing a backpack, an accusation he consistently denied.

That began a nightmare that landed him on Rikers Island, a wretched jail complex where violence was a fact of life, but where he was also subjected to cruelly long stretches of solitary confinement. The series, from a producing team that includes Jay Z, uses archival material, interviews and recreations to tell the story of how Mr. Browder was imprisoned for years without ever being convicted.

Its depiction of the madness of Rikers, especially in Part 2, is blunt and hard to watch. But the series, commendably, goes much deeper, exploring New York’s stop-and-frisk policy in that period, the bail system and other factors that combined to trap Mr. Browder there. His bail, for instance, was set at $3,000, a seemingly small amount, but not for people in his circumstances.

“The majority of people who are accused in the Bronx, it doesn’t matter if it’s $1 million bail or $750 bail,” says Michael Braverman, a civil rights lawyer. “They just don’t have the means to get out.”

The chain of events Mr. Browder experienced, of course, is not relevant just to his story. It’s also emblematic of a broken system that, at every stop, is slanted against black men like Mr. Browder and other minority groups. The series doesn’t break a lot of new ground — an article in The New Yorker in 2014 really put this case on the map, and the series also draws on journalism from “Nightline,” The New York Times and elsewhere. But the package is deftly assembled, drawing you in. Mr. Browder’s case is that horrible wreck on the roadside that you can’t stop staring at.

The series explores what extended solitary confinement does to a person’s mental state, by way of explaining why Mr. Browder’s ordeal did not end when he was released from prison in 2013. You may or may not know how this story ends; either way, the final two episodes of this series will hold your attention.

Time: The Kalief Browder Story
Wednesdays on Spike
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/29/arts/television/review-time-kalief-browder-story.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&smid=nytcore-iphone-share