rikers island stories

As I left the there, some people called to let me know where he was. Damien Norman (above), 20, said he was 17 while awaiting trial on Rikers Island in 2012 for robbery and said his wrist was broken in an incident involving a corrections officer. As someone who spent time on Rikers as a young person, I found that every single story rang true to me. I half expected him to turn the notion down, but to my surprise, he was incredibly open to the idea. I hadn’t seen him in almost two years. Your time on the phone is limited, which is maybe one of the worst parts. Rodrigo: Man, it’s just the environment. Here are the, instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser. You start talking to yourself. People don’t understand that being in a cell for that amount of time does things to you mentally. He said he was hit by a correctional officer and he struck back. It makes the guard’s job that much easier. I had no idea it was for that. The gang I was in came under a federal investigation for a number of things. Donte Walker, 21, said he was 16 when he was first detained and served time on Rikers from 2010 to 2012 for assault, possession of a firearm and armed robbery. I was imagining things. In an incident after a lockdown, Karamoko said an officer pulled him out of a class, escorted him into another room and started beating him. ", Harmon said he did not report the incident because "I never seen a good outcome of someone reporting a CO.", For full functionality of this page it is necessary to enable JavaScript. The American Prison system is, in all ways, a forgotten and broken piece of our society. Were you ever exposed to a situation or witnessed a moment where this kind of thing happened and was swept under the rug? Is it broken? Your email address will not be published. My life was so bad. Typically, I’d get about an hour or two break between that and having to make dinner. Did you have any clue as to the reputations of these two prisons before heading there? My family basically said it was them or the gang. It is so dark. Even though I’ve been home for three years, I’m still in there. With me being home and back in Harlem, it’s hard for people to believe that I’m trying to be a good person. In prison, most people are just trying to do their time, go home or have ‘retired.’ Upstate, it’s known that that Officers are racist as fuck. Just to be clear from here on out, can you explain the difference for those that aren’t familiar with this system here in the United States? Brooklyn, NY. That’s it. You’d wake up and go to school and see a pool of blood on the sidewalk from someone being jumped or robbed. At Rikers, none of that happens. The morning I was picked up by the police, I was taken to a court in Manhattan and from there went straight to Rikers. I would have been dead. It really does a number to you. The prison staff tends to pay more attention to the gangs and what’s going on with them in the prison. Was there a moment or a conversation you had where you realized that you needed to turn things around, not just for yourself, but for your son and family? Rodrigo: Upstate, you have to worry more about the Correctional Officers. It’s a place built upon the criminal code, where the rules of the outside world do not apply – where a person is no longer considered a human, they are simply a number. Which they don’t really care about, nor do a good job of. The officers weren’t always going to be there, nor did they really defend you. This guy was one of the Alpha Males in the unit. His smile is a bit aloof, one that a troublemaker bears with an impish charm. The only access into Rikers is the Francis Buono Bridge, which connects the island to the borough of Queens. I remember this kid we called ‘Red’ who was getting extorted and molested by another older inmate. And if you do get some kind of response from the guards, it’s not a good one. No sound. So people want to make phone calls and get in touch with whomever. I try and stay on top of him now. You’re nothing to them. Once you’re in there, you’re in there. And while in my younger years I had the lovely chance to be a guest at a county jail – a stay that woke my ignorant ass up to where my life was headed – not everyone is so fortunate. Every set has their own lingo, their own phrase. Blacks stayed with Blacks. Was there an effort to quickly acclimate you and the other inmates as to what was going to unfold for you? When they picked me up, they didn’t say anything about the shooting. My name is Sean Reveron. So making that decision wasn’t that hard or tough. So, alongside my partner in crime and wizard of photography Nathaniel Shannon, we hiked our way uptown into Harlem, a neighborhood steeped in history, culture, violence and the looming threat of being swallowed up by rapid gentrification. Rodrigo: Yeah, when I was in prison upstate for fighting. I would be sleeping and swear I could hear music. It was a family owned island until 1884 when the land was sold off to the city for a mere $180,000. They don’t try to put their hands on them or none of that. On the days I got to see my family, that was the worst. You pretty much have to be in a game, and if you’re not, you’re a big exception. And there’s only so many of them. You either fight or you get punked by someone. But that’s just what the vast majority of us do. There’s no way around it. My baby’s mom broke up with me while I was in Rikers. You can actually get packages in prison. If you say ‘I’m Blood,’ you have to spit your lingo. Rikers Island, the New York City jail complex that houses about 9,800 inmates, is one of the largest in the United States. Perhaps the easiest way to began this interview is to ask the hardest question first, the one that’ll set the tone for what is to follow. Rodrigo: You know what, yeah, but I’m reserving it for the right time. I didn’t. The COs (corrections officers) treat inmates bad in there.”. Because once I did, that would put a target on my back for the guards and my fellow inmates. They really don’t care what happens to anyone that’s in there for rape or molestation. When I went to the party, it was pure luck that he showed up. I’m here. All kinds of stuff. Rodrigo: Rikers Island is a jail. Rodrigo: Dead. To us, the law-abiding citizens of America, this is a place for people who deserve to be there. From the daily operations, to the social hierarchy built as a necessary means of control, prison is a world unto itself. Sooner or later, he might come back and I’ll see him. It was the gang or them. A member of the Blast Beat Network. There are so many young people that go into that system and before you know it, they’ve been in and out for twenty or thirty years of their life. After all is said and done, what are your thoughts on the American prison system? But prison has changed, though. Do you ever think that there will be a point where you tell him about being locked up? We’re in a better place now. The first fight I ever got in there was over the phones, if I’m not mistaken. Me and him started fighting. What was Rikers’ reputation to someone who was born and raised in the city? It’s everyone in your life that loves you that goes in. He’s my priority now. They had a guy watching out for any officers or my friends to coming in. I’m sorry, but you’re more likely to get stopped and arrested if you’re one of those two groups as opposed to being a white person. Twenty three hours a day. What was your typical day like? It’s a place where you’re held while you’re fighting your case or awaiting sentencing. But one situation that really grabbed my attention while preparing for this interview was “The Program,” which was essentially a Correction Officer-sanctioned group of inmates who enforced their rules on other inmates through violence. That’s when it becomes a bigger problem. I can say that my time there wasn’t bad like some people’s. There’s no contact with anyone. Rikers Island, one of the country’s most notorious correctional facilities, is closing.The City Council approved plans on Thursday to close Rikers, a jail complex with nearly 10,000 beds, by 2026. If you hit me, I can get away with murder.” Most of the officers live in the town around the prison. Over the course of two hours, while sitting on the front steps of apartment, witnessing spring finally being ushered into this urban sprawl, Rodrigo walked us through the three years of his life spent in the American prison system. You can be waiting at Intake for days until you get called up. One time at Rikers, there was this kid who must have been sixteen or seventeen, and was in there for raping a little girl. In a way, time stops for you and everyone else. It was all gang-related, and the guy got shot close to the heart at a baptism party. Nathaniel Shannon. Rodrigo: At the time I was growing up, everything revolved around race. New York City plans to replace Rikers Island with four new jails by 2027. Was there anything in particular that really shocked you? Rikers Island was named for the man who purchased the land in 1664, Abraham Rycken. I have a son and I didn’t want to miss out on him growing up. Joseph Collins. Typically, there’s no internal investigation into an incident. Eric said he was sent to solitary confinement after the incident because officers "said I assaulted an officer and that was that.”, Describing his experience at Rikers, Eric said, "Coming from the street to there just had me on guard. After one altercation with another inmate, Walker says he was put in flexicuffs and punched "mad hard, like real hard" in the face by a correctional officer. You have guys going in there for marijuana possession and getting one or two years, and a majority of those people are African-American or Hispanic. A quick, reactionary decision that ultimately costs them not just their freedom, but their friends and loved ones as well. Where were you transferred to? “My past kinda caught up with me,” Peartree said, declining to say why he was jailed. Was there an established pecking order between those that would use the threat of violence to get what they want? Once more Hispanics started coming in, I pulled them onto my side. You were facing fifteen years initially for Attempted Murder. You gonna report it to another CO which he’s cool with – he probably eats lunch with everyday. It’s part of their community. Rodrigo: Oh, it’s broken. They don’t do the things they do with adolescents. I had to fight back the tears. I was seventeen years old and hanging out on 115th Street around Park Avenue. What were the events that led up to you being arrested for the shooting? He said he was told, “Oh, well it happens,” when he reported the incident to another officer. His time there was horrible. What happened that allowed you to only do three and half years? I was just trying to fight this and get home. They had to get used to me being back and I had to get used to them being in my life. From your time there, would you agree with that sentiment? Rodrigo: Rapists and child-molesters are definitely on the bottom. In prison, they typically have TVs in the cells. I've never seen a film like this before—it is the raw truth of what it is like to be on Rikers Island. Karamoko said he attempted to fight back and was beaten by a group of officers who then shot him with pepper spray. The entry way and the bridge to Rikers Island, in Queens, New York on June 25, 2014. I guess he was in the hospital for two weeks. Prison scars you. And while convictions have been made in various cases, there has always been this lingering rumor that it still occurred. If you want to shit or shower, you do it in the cell. After several inmate deaths, decades of lawsuits alleging inmate abuse and a two-and-a-half-year investigation by the U.S. Justice Department, the city in June agreed to let a federal monitor oversee reforms at the jail, which sits on a 413-acre bean-shaped island in the East River between the boroughs of Queens and the Bronx. We’re just setting them up to fail. But my mentality – what I knew about Rikers – was that as soon as I walked in, I was going to have to fight someone. But now, maybe. I miss it sometimes. I’m institutionalized, without a doubt. So, a lot of it was about protection. You start screaming at the door. I think that’s another way of keeping minorities down. So it just hurt knowing that I wasn’t going to see them like I did before. A place we’d rather not think about. Gonzalez said he once was slapped in the face and punched in his ribs by correctional officers for turning a sock inside-out incorrectly after a visit from his mother. The guy and I had already had problems. So this guy walked up to me and started pressing me to give him my information. Let’s put it this way: I once told a guard that if he would bring me Popeye’s Chicken for lunch, I’d beat up whomever he wanted. There were a lot of fights that were based just off of race. People can and do change. The grounds were perfect for military training, and the 9th New York Infantry used it as a proving ground during the Civil War. They bus itself is the yellow school bus everyone sees, except that it says “Corrections” on both sides of it, and the windows are guarded by wire frames. Watch TV, get on the phone, write your family letters. As a native of New York City, before you went into Rikers, what was your understanding of what went on there? A couple other COs (correctional officers) jumped in. ", He said, "I recommend anybody from the age 16 to 21 not go to Rikers Island. The way it works is that if you don’t get into fights and stay out of trouble, you’re security ranking will go down and you’ll eventually be able to join a dorm, which is a huge open room with about fifty other inmates. At what point during your time at Rikers or in Greene did you want to turn your life around? Broken Path – One Man’s Story of Life Inside Rikers Island. People that I knew. 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