Narrator: Michael Stephens

Summary: Michael Stephens grew up in North Carolina and moved to New York City when he was 21. He served two terms at Rikers Island, first in 2017 and again in late 2019 and early 2020. His second term ended two months early, when he was released because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While at Rikers, Stephens served as a commissary worker and was affiliated with the Folk Nation gang. He describes having to wake up at 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning to make a court appearance in the city, returning to Rikers at 10:00 at night. Having served jail terms in North Carolina, New Jersey, and New York, he calls Rikers the worst jail he’s ever been in, largely because of the brutality and indifference of the staff. (Summary written by: Annie Anderson)

Interview Date: 6/9/20

Partner Organization: Exodus Transitional – Wyndam Gardens

Interviewer: Elizabeth Speck

Tags: Rikers Island, Incarceration, Prison abolition, New York City, Oral history, Rikers Public Memory Project, RPMP, Insufficient health services, Correction Officers, Gangs, Housing after Rikers, Being released from Rikers, Poor living conditions, Intake, Officers’ abuse, Violence in prison, Solitary confinement, Re-incarceration, Personal history of incarceration, Defense mechanisms, Violence normalization, Being released from Rikers, Parole, NYC Policies, Generation changes, Covid at Rikers, Close Rikers

To read the transcript of this interview, click here