Narrator: Natasha White

Summary: Natasha White grew up in Flushing, Queens. She first arrived at Rikers as a 16-year-old. On her first day there, her pregnant cellmate, also a teenager, died while detoxing from heroin. She carried that trauma with her and credits that young woman for keeping her away from certain drugs and saving her life. White cycled in and out of Rikers more than two dozen times and also served time in state prison. She describes the repetition of life at Rikers: “You went to the yard or you roamed the hallways, went to commissary, talked on the phone, watched TV, fought over the TV. It— it was not productive in any way at all.” She recounts that several women at Rikers formed intimate relationships with each other, platonic and romantic, that helped them survive their incarceration. White is now an activist with JustLeadershipUSA’s Close Rikers campaign. Her advocacy work has restored her self-confidence. (Summary written by: Annie Anderson)

Interview Date: 1/29/20

Partner Organization: JLUSA

Interviewer: Anna Van Dine

Tags: Youth incarceration, Re-incarceration, Being pregnant while incarcerated, Insufficient health services, First impressions, Getting arrested, Threats and fears, Detainees’ neglect, Psychological impact of incarceration, Violence in prison, Correction Officers, Officers’ abuse, Parole, Visitation Process, Gangs, Network of support, Prison facilities, Going to court, Emotional impact of visitation, Anxiety / Stress, Social interactions in prison, Close Rikers, Working after Rikers, Medical evaluations at Rikers, Personal history of incarceration, Poor living conditions, Intake, Rikers Island, Incarceration, Prison abolition, New York City, Oral history, Rikers Public Memory Project, RPMP

To read the transcript of this interview, click here