Narrator: Orlando Irizarry

Summary: Orlando Irizarry is from Brooklyn, New York. He was first incarcerated at Rikers Island in 1993 as a teenager. During his recent term there in early 2020, COVID-19 swept through the facility. Living in an overcrowded dorm, with no masks and no way to social distance, he describes feeling like “a sitting duck” for the virus. His severe anxiety about surviving the virus and surviving Rikers made him wonder if he would make it out alive. Over the course of several terms at Rikers, he witnessed repeated assaults and abuse among staff and incarcerated people, coupled with indifference on the part of corrections officers. He calls Rikers “a gateway to hell.” (Summary written by: Annie Anderson)

Interview Date: 06/10/20

Partner Organization: Exodus Transitional – Wyndam Gardens

Interviewer: Tamika Graham

Tags: Rikers Island, Incarceration, Prison abolition, New York City, Oral history, Rikers Public Memory Project, RPMP, Intake, Rikers in the 90s, Prison facilities, Poor living conditions, NYC Policies, Covid at Rikers, Insufficient health services, Anxiety / Stress, Psychological impact of incarceration, Overcrowding, Going to court, Correction Officers, Officers’ abuse, Lack of resources/services, Insufficient health services, Parole, Threats and fears, Social interactions in prison, Coping mechanisms, Defense mechanisms, Violence in prison, Close Rikers, Physical impact of incarceration, Generation changes, Policy changes, Personal history of incarceration

To read the transcript of this interview, click here