Narrator: Omar Alexander

Summary: Omar Alexander grew up in Crown Heights and Flatbush, Brooklyn. He served several terms at Rikers, where he worked in the barbershop. His mom worked on Rikers Island for 20 years, and she would walk over from her building to visit him. A practicing Muslim, he started his days in jail meditating, praying, exercising, and stretching. He was incarcerated at Rikers Island in early 2020 when COVID-19 first swept through the facility. He and others had a stand-off with guards, refusing to leave their dorm until they got face masks. He describes Rikers as “gladiator school,” where his survival instincts kicked in. (Summary written by: Annie Anderson)

Interview Date: 6/17/20

Partner Organization: Exodus Transitional – Wyndam Gardens

Interviewer: Carlin Zia 

Tags: COVID at Rikers, insufficient health services, poor living conditions, correction officers, detainees neglect, officers’ accountability, NYC policies, violence in prison, defense mechanisms, impact on communities, getting arrested, gangs, network of support, social interactions in prison, correctional officers, officers’ abuse, detainees neglect, Bloods, Crips, Ñetas, psychological impact of incarceration, impact on outside relationships, visitation process, working at Rikers while incarcerated, working after Rikers, prison facilities, Close Rikers, reparations, officers’ accountability, medical evaluations at Rikers, overcrowding, Rikers Island, Incarceration, Prison abolition, New York City, Oral history, Rikers Public Memory Project, RPMP

To read the transcript of this interview, click here