Narrator: Gianina Cruz

Summary: Gianina Cruz was first incarcerated at Rikers Island when she was 18 years old. After serving three terms “upstate” in state prisons, she found herself back at Rikers when COVID-19 first swept through the facility in early 2020. All 36 women in her dorm, including her, contracted the virus. She and 28 of her dormmates were hospitalized. Cruz describes Rikers Island as a place that broker her “mentally, physically, and emotionally.” She got into some physical altercations there, though she tried to stay out of trouble by reading in her cell. She shares her struggles with early childhood trauma, and talks about dealing with post-incarceration depression and detoxing. (Summary written by: Annie Anderson)

Interview Date: 06/16/20

Partner Organization: Exodus Transitional – Holiday Inn

Interviewer: Tina Ye

Tags: anxiety/stress, personal history of incarceration, correction officers, officers’ abuse, detainees exploitation, sexual assault, officers; accountability, violence in prison, psychological impact of incarceration, intake, first impressions, medical evaluation at Rikers, solitary confinement, coping mechanisms, defense mechanisms, poor living conditions, last-day, COVID at Rikers, insufficient health services, going to court, impact on outside relationships, Rikers Island, Incarceration, Prison abolition, New York City, Oral history, Rikers Public Memory Project, RPMP

To read the transcript of this interview, click here