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Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Ted Conover(Author)

    Book details


Acclaimed journalist Ted Conover sets a new standard for bold, in-depth reporting in this first-hand account of life inside the penal system.

When Conover’s request to shadow a recruit at the New York State Corrections Officer Academy was denied, he decided to apply for a job as a prison officer. So begins his odyssey at Sing Sing, once a model prison but now the state’s most troubled maximum-security facility. The result of his year there is this remarkable look at one of America’s most dangerous prisons, where drugs, gang wars, and sex are rampant, and where the line between violator and violated is often unclear. As sobering as it is suspenseful, Newjack is an indispensable contribution to the urgent debate about our country’s criminal justice system, and a consistently fascinating read.

Acclaimed journalist Ted Conover sets a new standard for bold, in-depth reporting in this first-hand account of life inside the penal system.When Conover’s request to shadow a recruit at the New York State Corrections Officer Academy was denied, he decided to apply for a job as a prison officer. So begins his odyssey at Sing Sing, once a model prison but now the state’s most troubled maximum-security facility. The result of his year there is this remarkable look at one of America’s most dangerous prisons, where drugs, gang wars, and sex are rampant, and where the line between violator and violated is often unclear. As sobering as it is suspenseful, Newjack is an indispensable contribution to the urgent debate about our country’s criminal justice system, and a consistently fascinating read.

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Book details

  • PDF | 352 pages
  • Ted Conover(Author)
  • Vintage; Vintage Books ed edition (June 12, 2001)
  • English
  • 4
  • Politics & Social Sciences

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Review Text

  • By DACHokie on March 2, 2014

    Most of the books about prison are written by current/former inmates, authors focusing on sensational events (riots) or academia types ripping the US prison system in general. They are (generally) one-sided and somewhat depressing. Ted Conover’s NEWJACK provides a refreshingly different perspective of prison life … that of the prison guard. While not an overly exciting read, it certainly fills a void.Ted Conover was so determined to provide a prison guard’s point-of-view, he enlisted in the academy to become one himself. Unbeknownst to the State of New York, they provided all the material for this book: the training and Conover’s short-term stint guarding Sing Sing, the state’s historic maximum security penitentiary. Even though the author had ulterior motives behind his employment at Sing Sing, he clearly reveals that he was dedicated to taking the dangerous job seriously.NEWJACK sheds light on the people and the systems designed to house and “rehabilitate” society’s most dangerous souls. More than anything, the book reveals that a fragile balance exists inside the walls of prisons and at any given moment, an explosive situation can escalate and hand control to the inmates. While television and movies often depict prison guards as being stupid, lazy, corrupt and putty in the hands of savvy inmates, Conover provides contradictory evidence. Sure, he details a few stereotypical guards going through the motions just to collect a paycheck, but the bulk of the book depicts most of the individuals Conover worked with are competent and take their jobs seriously (knowing that not doing so could prove to be harmful, if not fatal). If you’re expecting the book to be an action-filled digest chock full of daily assaults, shankings and prison break attempts, you’ll be disappointed; in no way does Sing Sing resemble the gladiator-like arena portrayed by Hollywood (HBO’s “Oz”, for example). While there are a few blood-letting incidents Conover describes, most of the books “action” comes from Conover’s sometimes irritable relationships with senior co-workers who seem to relish testing the mettle of new guards. During his brief tenure in Sing Sing, Conover is able to provide a fairly thorough perspective of most every facet of being a guard (he even gets a stint in the guard tower which is described as reading room with an arsenal at one’s disposal). What we discover is that the life of a prison guard is centered on completing mundane processes day-in/day out all while under the watchful eyes of bored inmates looking for opportunities to exploit any/every mistake. One of the primary lessons learned by Conover was to never reveal personal information to any of the inmates as even the most insignificant, seemingly innocent/inane tidbit could be a powerful tool in the hands of an inmate. I found myself continually thinking of the dread these guards must feel going to work each day; Conover even questions his ability to complete his desired stretch of employment at Sing Sing throughout the book. The author dedicates one highly detailed chapter to recapping the colorful history of Sing Sing; I found this to be the best, most interesting part of the book.NEWJACK was a decent, educational read, just not terribly exciting (I seemed to have fallen into the trap set by Hollywood). While it may not be action-filled, it covers new ground by exposing a more secretive side of the prison system (so much in fact, that the book was once considered contraband inside the prison). I give Conover credit for having the guts to do what he did in order to write this book (becoming an actual guard). If anything, readers should have a new-found respect for those who choose this career path as prison proves to be a miserable environment for everyone inside the walls … the only difference is that the guards have the opportunity of leaving at shift’s end.

  • By HyperReviewer on February 5, 2010

    Ted Conover's "Newjack" is simply great. After being denied access to the CO (Corrections Officer) training facility for a story, and with the tight lipped attitude of the DOC (Dept of Corrections in NY State), Ted Conover didn't give up. He went undercover so to speak, applied for, graduated the academy and became a corrections officer himself...guarding inmates at Sing Sing, one of the toughest maximum security prisons in the world.The story moves at a good fast pace, he delivers some background about the prison, the town and the department of corrections, along with early prison policy and reformers in the US. What he doesn't do when taking these historical pauses... is bore you. Instead, it's all relevant and elegantly told.I assume the favorite parts of the book for most readers will be those passages that relate to his direct contact with prisoners, and these he gives in ample detail. I couldn't put it down.Do you know what a 'porter' is in prison, what an OIC log is, what is supposed to happen when an inmate ignore's a command from a CO, what New Year's Eve is like on B Block, what's considered 'contraband' in prison (ironically this book was), how easy or difficult a shift in the lunchroom can be, why you are not happy about "Waffle Day" if your a CO at Sing Sing... these and many other lessons await inside this candid look at life 'inside'.Buy the book or you might find yourself in the 'Box' as a 'Keeplock'. =)[email protected]

  • By Guest on September 7, 2017

    This book was a really great read. As a former CO in the northeast, it was a good insight to see how a state with such a massive corrections system operated on a daily basis. I laughed at some similar situations I encountered, and sympathized with him when recounting his first few days. I remember feeling a lot of the same things he describes when first starting the job. I was a little dissapointed with the ending, it just seemed like it cut off. I would have liked to see how the state reacted to his book after it was published, with an amendment or something at the end, but still worth the money.

  • By Michael G. on July 21, 2008

    It has been said that good writers must suffer for their craft. But few would have voluntarily gone to the lengths Ted Conover went to in order to gather information for this important, informative book. Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing chronicles the author's experiences as he worked incognito for a year as a rookie corrections officer at world famous Sing Sing, one of New York State's maximum security prisons.Conover calmly tells it like it is in the little seen but ever expanding world of corrections. He describes the soul sapping indignities that officers and inmates alike contend with on a day to day basis, bringing to life a hidden world that few outsiders will ever see or even want to think about.For an informed, nonsensationalistic look at modern day prisons and the men and women who guard them, Newjack by Ted Conover is without equal. Highly recommended.

  • By Kevin LaBrie on June 18, 2017

    As someone who worked briefly in a jail(not a prison) and as a contractor and not a guard, I strongly identify with much of what Ted Conover talks about. I enjoyed the fact that this book was honest and doesn't come across as a liberal or conservative diatribe. Just the facts as he saw it. I was however a bit disappointed it didn't end with an over arching review of his position of the system now that he had spent a year as a CO. I also would have liked a bit more about the prisoner mentality. Overall though, a very good book that I would recommend.


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