Narrator: Phillip White

Summary: Phillip White grew up in the Washington, DC area and moved to New York in 1976. He first arrived at Rikers Island in the mid-1980s as a teenager. He was selling cocaine at the time. Rikers Island, for many of White’s friends, was a rite of passage that helped establish their street cred. White befriended some corrections officers at Rikers, who brought him weapons, drugs, and alcohol. He got into several altercations while incarcerated, using razors, box cutters, and bleach to fight. A regular visitor of the Rikers’ law library, White also participated in various educational programs. He describes how his five years at Rikers, with its chaos and violence, was more traumatic than his 19 years in state prison. His experience at Rikers left him diminished and desensitized: “I felt like I was reduced to absolutely nothing.” (Summary written by: Annie Anderson)

Interview Date: 1/14/20

Partner Organization: Exodus Transitional

Interviewer: Tapan Parikh

Tags: Rikers Island, Incarceration, Prison abolition, New York City, Oral history, Rikers Public Memory Project, RPMP, Getting arrested, Threats and fears, Social interactions in prison, Violence in prison, Violence normalization, Going to court, Rikers in the 80s, Prison facilities, Poor living conditions, Correction Officers, Officers’ abuse, Coping mechanisms, Defense mechanisms, Police abuse, Gangs, Going to court, Sexual assault, Impact on outside relationships, Last-day, Detainees exploitation, Close Rikers, Anxiety / Stress, Psychological impact of incarceration, Physical impact of incarceration, Lack of resources/services, Youth incarceration, Young people incarcerated with adults, Police/officers’ accountability, Police abuse

To read the transcript of this interview, click here