Narrator: Elizabeth Harrison

Summary: Elizabeth Harrison grew up in the Bronx. She first arrived at Rikers in 2015 for a weapons charge. At Rikers, Harrison worked in the tailoring shop, making sheets and towels. She also worked the suicide watch and did janitorial labor. She recalls how guards would pay her in sugar to clean the cellblock floors, but then reclaim the sugar when doing cell searches. She developed friendships with other incarcerated women, including one who is now her best friend. She witnessed Rikers officials over-medicate and sedate the incarcerated population. Harrison describes aggressive, disrespectful, and dismissive behavior on the part of Rikers officers, including an incident in which she and other incarcerated people had to turn and face the wall when the warden walked through their cellblock. (Summary written by: Annie Anderson)

Interview Date: 2/13/19

Partner Organization: Bronx Freedom Fund

Interviewer: Nandhi Honwana

Tags: Rikers Island, Incarceration, Prison abolition, New York City, Oral history, Rikers Public Memory Project, RPMP, NYC Policies, Going to court, Getting arrested, Correction Officers, Officers’ abuse, Coping mechanisms, Defense mechanisms, Network of support, Violence in prison, Violence normalization, Working in Rikers while incarcerated, Impact on communities, Gangs, Incarceration rates, Abuse of medication, Solitary confinement, Police/officers’ accountability, Detainees’ neglect, Gangs, Anxiety / Stress, Threats and fears, Social interactions in prison, Physical impact of incarceration, Police abuse, Insufficient health services, Re-entry, Re-incarceration, Personal history of incarceration, Impact on communities, Lack of resources/services, Close Rikers

To read the transcript of this interview, click here