Narrator: Dwayne Gardner 

Summary: Dwayne Gardner grew up in the Marcy Housing Projects in Brooklyn, New York. He first served time at Rikers in 1984. He talks about Rikers’ enduring “ruthless” culture, affecting guards and incarcerated people alike. He witnessed brutal violence during the day, including a fatal stabbing, and heard people crying at night alone in their cells. He describes Rikers as a health hazard, with crumbling infrastructure, pests, and unsanitary conditions. Gardner was incarcerated at Rikers when COVID-19 first swept through the facility in early 2020. He describes how the jail was woefully unprepared to deal with the virus, causing widespread chaos and misinformation. Social distancing was impossible, and officials waited a month to distribute masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer. He vowed to never return to Rikers after the chaos and anger he witnessed during his most recent stint. (Summary written by: Annie Anderson)

Interview Date: 06/16/20

Partner Organization: Exodus Transitional – Holiday Inn

Interviewer: Tina Ye

Tags: violence normalization, psychological impact of incarceration, gangs, correction officers, Rikers in the 90s, Rikers in the 80s, violence in prison, sexual assault, officers’ abuse, close rikers, poor living conditions, COVID at Rikers, insufficient health services, officers’ accountability, physical impact of incarceration, visitation process, prison facilities, working at Rikers while incarcerated, detainees neglect, going to court, last-day, social interactions in prison, reparations, detainees exploitation, NYC policies, impact on outside relationships, working after Rikers, Rikers Island, Incarceration, Prison abolition, New York City, Oral history, Rikers Public Memory Project, RPMP

To read the transcript of this interview, click here