Narrator: Lorenzo Blakeney

Summary: Lorenzo Blakeney grew up in Brooklyn. He cycled in and out of Rikers Island in the late 1970s and 1980s, doing his first stint as a 15-year-old. He later served time in state prison. While at Rikers, he worked in the mess hall, on the paint gang, and in sanitation. Of his time at Rikers he says: “You’re going to fight. Either you gonna fight to survive, you’re going to fight to be respected… or they’re going to take advantage of you.” When his father died while he was incarcerated, he made a promise to himself that he would turn his life around. After he got out of jail in 1998, he worked as a painter for 20 years. (Summary written by: Annie Anderson)

Interview Date: 1/23/19

Partner Organization: Mott Haven Library

Interviewer: Nandhi Honwana

Tags: Rikers Island, Incarceration, Prison abolition, New York City, Oral history, Rikers Public Memory Project, RPMP, Youth incarceration, Generation changes, Rikers history, Rikers in the 70s, Rikers in the 80s, Getting arrested, Going to court, Turtle squad, Gangs, Policy changes, Latin Kings, Añetas, Bloods, Crips, Sexual assault, Correction Officers, Police abuse, Police/officers’ accountability, Coping mechanisms, Defense mechanisms, Network of support, Prison facilities, Poor living conditions, Physical impact of incarceration, Anxiety / Stress, Psychological impact of incarceration, Parole, Working in Rikers while incarcerated, Impact on communities, Lack of resources/services, Incarceration rates, Re-entry, Personal history of incarceration, Re-incarceration, Working after Rikers, Impact on outside relationships

To read the transcript of this interview, click here