Rikers Island Battered Women Section

It all started in 2009, when I met Donna Ferrato, internationally respected documentary photographer, who fell in love with my project on prisons in Tuscany, and gave me the amazing opportunity to continue my project about prisons in NYC.

Rikers is the biggest, and probably most famous, jail in the United States.  It is built on an island between the Bronx and Queens, and consists of 18 different buildings that hold thousands of prisoners. The most dangerous prisoners are kept in a boat on the river that separates Queens from the Bronx.

I arrived at the Battered Women section for the first time in 2009.  I quickly learned that prisoners are not allowed to own mirrors, as a mirror is considered a weapon. Some of these incarcerated women haven’t seen their faces in years.  In fact, some of them couldn’t even recognize themselves in the photographs I showed them.  The most beautiful aspect of this project for me is the fact that, with my pictures, I can offer these women a mirror.

Prisoners at Rikers are not permitted to keep pictures of themselves, for fear that they may use them to create fake IDs. The only thing that I can do, is give them to the families, and I do. Infact with “In the projects”, I bring my camera also outside of the prison’s wall, visiting the families, listening to their stories and trying to catch the athmosphere of the neighborhoods where they come from, trying to understand their lives before and while they are in prison. Because, as a lady’s mother told me: they are all in prison. All the family is in prison after what happened.

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