Narrator: Ivelisse Gilestra

Summary: Ivelisse Gilestra migrated to New York from Puerto Rico in 1992. Within two years, she was visiting Rikers Island to see friends and loved ones. Gilestra later served 13 years in another prison. “Rikers has been an extension of our communities,” she notes. She was socialized to normalize the experience of Rikers, even with its dehumanization and violence. She recounts the bus ride to Rikers Island, full of tension and excitement on the way in, and heaviness and sadness on the way out. She discusses the hyper-vigilance and post-traumatic stress that currently and formerly incarcerated people live with. She says that Rikers Island “needs to be remembered as the monstrosity it is,” a place that “not only disrupted our community but separated us from ourselves.” (Summary written by: Annie Anderson)

Interview Date: 7/28/20

Partner Organization: Planned Interviews

Interviewer: Carlin Zia

Tags: visitation process, impact on communities, officers’ abuse, officers’ accountability, NYC policies, violence in prison, sexual assault, emotional impact of visitation, impact on outside relationships, Rikers history, reparations, Close Rikers, violence normalization, coping mechanisms, lack of resources/services, psychological impact of incarceration, personal history of incarceration, anxiety/stress, Rikers Island, Incarceration, Prison abolition, New York City, Oral history, Rikers Public Memory Project, RPMP

To read the transcript of this interview, click here