Rikers Island is New York City’s largest jail—and a fitting place to start if you want to understand the crisis of incarceration in America today. One survey ranks Rikers among the ten worst jails in America. Buy thanks to some excellent journalism—by The New York Times, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, WNYC, and The Marshall Project—plus some spirited grassroots advocacy, we’ve learned a lot in recent years about the violence, cruelty, and abuse that have happened there. Yet, for all the attention, Rikers remains foreign to most of us. One corrections officer there says that, “jail has a smell. Worse than a sewer—people on the outside could never understand.” But it’s not only the smell that is hard for outsiders to imagine, it’s what happens to the people inside; what’s done to them in our name, with our tax dollars, and reputedly for our safety. So my colleagues and I wanted to add another dimension to the media coverage, and to public understanding, by listening to some of these men and women tell their stories in their own words. We wanted to bear witness to their experience in their own voice. This is a documentary told solely from the perspective of former detainees. Be forewarned: Some of the scenes are shocking. Some of the language is raw. But this is Rikers.