Shawn Carter AKA Jay Z is partnering up with Weinstein CO. to produce a docuseries, Variety reports. The series will tell the story of Kalief Browder, the Bronx high school student who killed himself back in 2015 after being held for three years on Rikers Island for allegedly stealing a backpack.
The docuseries is titled Time: The Kalief Browder Story and is set to air as a six-part series beginning in January. Each episode will show dramatic reenactments of Browder’s life in addition to interviews with friends and family members along with archival footage. Browder’s tragic story of being sent to solitary confinement without ever being charged with a crime has galvanized prison reform efforts to get rid of isolationist policies for juvenile offenders.
Browder’s case became a symbol of the broken criminal justice system in the United States. Browder asserted that he was innocent while he was behind bars and he had to spend more time in prison because his family could not afford to pay the $3000 bail. He was eventually released in 2013 after the person who accused him left the country. In June 2015, at age 22, Browder committed suicide.
Carter will executive produce the series for Weinstein Co. and his Roc Nation banner, along with Harvey Weinstein, David Glasser, Jenner Furst, Nick Sandow, Julia Willoughby Nason and Michael Gasparro. Furst will direct the series. Kevin Kay, the president of Spike TV said the cabler would be supporting the docuseries as part of an effort to reach new levels with their programming.“This is an important story to tell,” Kay said. ”Making a Murderer and Serial show you that there is a tremendous audience for these stories.”
Carter stated that he first learned about Browder’s case through the 2014 New York article titled The Years on Rikers Without a Trial. He then asked his assistant to set up a meeting with Browder and the two eventually met in Jay Z’s New York office. “He told me he was going to college,” Carter said. “I wanted to give him words of encouragement.” But unfortunately, soon after, Carter found out that Browder had killed himself. “I was thrown, of course. “I kept asking myself, ‘Man, the story’s not supposed to end like this,’” Carter stated.
Weinstein and Carter had been talking for years about teaming up for TV projects and films and when he brought the idea of a Browder docu-series to Weinstein, the two immediately worked on the project. Jay Z called Browder a “modern-day prophet,” whose death helped shine light on the urgent need for prison reforms. “This young man got dealt a horrible hand,” he said. “I hope this story inspires others and saves the lives of others.”
Recently, President Obama signed legislation barring solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prisons. Additionally, the filmmakers are working with the advocacy org Stop Solitary for Kids to push for state-level reforms. Kalief Browder’s mother Venida appeared at a news conference to help promote the work the organizaiton does. “It’s too late for my son but it will benefit other youths who will not endure what my son did,” Browder said.