Narrator: Vidal Guzman

Summary: Vidal Guzman spent three and a half years at Rikers Island when he was a teenager. Several of his family members also cycled through Rikers, including his brother and uncle. Guzman later served several years in state prison, including two and a half years in solitary confinement. He laments that he never got to go to prom or play on a school basketball team. An abolitionist, he believes that all prisons and jails should be closed. Instead of sending broken people into a broken system, he says, we should move toward solving structural issues like poverty and exploitation. Of the violence he witnessed and the trauma he still deals with, he notes: “just because someone left Rikers doesn’t mean Rikers left them.” Guzman is now an activist with JustLeadershipUSA’s Close Rikers campaign. (Summary written by: Annie Anderson)

Interview Date: 1/29/20

Partner Organization: JLUSA

Interviewer: Elizabeth Speck

Tags: Rikers Island, Incarceration, Prison abolition, New York City, Oral history, Rikers Public Memory Project, RPMP, Personal history of Incarceration, Getting arrested, Rikers in the /80s, Youth incarceration, Psychological impact of incarceration, Anxiety / Stress, First impressions, Prison facilities, Intake, Violence in prison, Social interactions in prison, Defense mechanisms, Sexual assault, Coping mechanisms, Threats and fears, Poor living conditions, Correction Officers, Police/officers’ accountability, Violence normalization, Re-incarceration, Housing after Rikers, Insufficient health services, Impact on outside relationships, Solitary confinement, Bloods, Gangs, Close Rikers, NYC Policies, Impact on communities

To read the transcript of this interview, click here