Narrator: Lauren Valente

Summary: Lauren Valente grew up in the Bronx. She describes herself as “a good kid” who avoided trouble. In 2010, she was arrested, and she cycled in and out of jail for the next decade due to her addiction to prescription pain medication. In early 2020, she was incarcerated at Rikers Island for a parole violation when COVID-19 first swept through the facility. She describes being locked down for months as the virus moved through the jail, sickening 38 out of the 50 women in her dorm. (She did not get sick or develop symptoms.) While at Rikers, she was friendly with some officers and other incarcerated women. She mostly kept to herself and kept busy by working several jobs, including taking the garbage out, cleaning the floors, working in the mess hall, and helping in the paint shop. (Summary written by: Annie Anderson)

Interview Date: 06/16/20

Partner Organization: Exodus Transitional – Holiday Inn

Interviewer: Carlin Zia 

Tags: Rikers Island, Incarceration, Prison abolition, New York City, Oral history, Rikers Public Memory Project, RPMP, Covid at Rikers, Insufficient health services, Going to court, Parole, Getting arrested, Abuse of medication, Intake, Medical evaluations at Rikers, Re-entry, Re-incarceration, Being released from Rikers, Last-day, Personal history of incarceration, Anxiety / Stress, Working in Rikers while incarcerated, Overcrowding, Prison facilities, Poor living conditions, Threats and fears, Social interactions in prison, Violence in prison, Violence normalization, Coping mechanisms, Defense mechanisms, Impact on outside relationships, Network of support, Impact on communities, Correction Officers, Visitation Process, Emotional impact of visitation, Close Rikers, NYC Policies

To read the transcript of this interview, click here