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Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing

Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing

Written by Ted Conover

Narrated by Ted Conover


Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing

Written by Ted Conover

Narrated by Ted Conover

ratings:
4/5 (19 ratings)
Length:
11 hours
Released:
Apr 25, 2005
ISBN:
9781596006331
Format:
Audiobook

Description

Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing is the story of Conover's rookie year as a guard at Sing Sing. It is a nerve-jangling account of his passage into the storied prison and the culture of its guards-both fresh-faced "newjacks" like Conover and brutally hardened veterans. As he struggles to be a good officer, Conover angers inmates, dodges blows, works to balance decency with toughness, and participates in prison rituals-strip frisks, cell searches, cell "extractions"-that exact a toll on inmates and officers alike.

The tale begins with the corrections academy and ends with the flames and smoke of New Year's Eve on Conover's floor of the notorious B-Block. Along the way, Conover also recounts the history of Sing Sing, from draconian early punishment, to fame as the citadel of capital punishment, to its present status as New York State's "bottom of the barrel" prison.

This audiobook will become a landmark of American journalism-the definitive presentation of the impasse between the need to imprison criminals and the dehumanization of inmates and guards-that almost inevitably takes place behind bars.

"Newjack is an astonishing work by a gifted-and dedicated-journalist. Ted Conover takes us into the dangerous, sad, amusing and instructive soul of one of America's best known prisons." -Tom Brokaw

Released:
Apr 25, 2005
ISBN:
9781596006331
Format:
Audiobook

About the author



Reviews

What people think about Newjack

4.2
19 ratings / 11 Reviews
What did you think?
Rating: 0 out of 5 stars

Reader reviews

  • (3/5)
    Undercover Corrections Officer

    Ted Conovers tried to get enough material to write about New York prisons but kept getting the run around. So he decided to become a corrections officer. After a long waiting period, he completes the Academy and works at Sing Sing prison for one year. This is his experience.



    The Academy is set up to be very militaristic and in hindsight, run just like a prison. Upon graduation, he and most of his class is sent to Sing Sing prison in Ossining, New York. Sing Sing is located just outside of New York and sees a lot of Riker's Island inmates come through. The prison is crowded with gang bangers, drug dealers, and violent criminals. There's also an understaffed or barely staffed correction officers to handle the population.



    However, I really expected it to be much worse than it was. No riots, just a few inmate incidents that play off like a oversized two-year old refusing to do what they are told. For the most part, it seems like the guys there knew the score and for the most part did the time.



    The guards, and especially the ones at Sing Sing, were for me the most interesting aspect. The ones who had been there any length of time, seemed to feed off of the violence and apathy that was in the air. Because so many new guards are sent to Sing Sing, the inmates never get used to one guard and one way of doing things.



    I was really intrigued by the fact that Ossinging has really built itself up around the prison. Nothing like convicted criminals as your neighbors. The fact that the city would rather the prison move so they can have the prime waterfront property amuses me.



    Conovers includes a lot of history in the later portion of the book. Using inmate labor to build the prison was really interesting. Along with a couple of short bios on well known wardens. What I had never really thought about was the fact that this prison was built in 1826-it's nearly two hundred years old!



    Overall, this was a really good look into the prison system in the US and specifically, Sing Sing. If you're interested in prisons, corrections or history of prisons, check this out.

  • (4/5)
    The author, Ted Conover, spent a year as a correctional officer at Sing Sing in preparation for this book, and because the authorities didn't know he was a writer, he got the full, uncensored experience. His story very effectively captures the tremendous difficulties of the prison system: it's a terrible system, both for guards and inmates, but there is no obvious way to fix it. Conover admires the few guards who are somehow able to exert authority to maintain control without being abusive, but most are just barely hanging on to a minimal level of order, or they have become violent and unreasonable. And it's not hard to understand why; every day, for very little pay and with very little training, they deal with prisoners who are demanding, smelly, mentally ill, violent, and/or liable to throw feces or urine on the guards. These are the same people the other prisoners deal with every day, too. At least during the author's tenure at Sing Sing, the rehabilitative aspects of prison were non-existent. Most of the prisoners have nothing productive to do with their time, and many recognize that there will be nothing for them in the free world when they get out. Conover doesn't try to offer solutions or alternatives to this arrangement--that's not the point of the book.The book could have used more of a narrative arc; given the intensity of the subject matter, it wasn't as gripping as it could have been.
  • (5/5)
    A very interesting and thought provoking book written undercover. Conover strikes the perfect balance between objectivism and sentimentalism. It's a bit dated - it was published in 2000, although I found most parts still very much relevant today. Worthwhile for anyone concerned with the growing prison industrial complex and the impacts of that on society.
  • (3/5)
    Highly detailed and mostly engaging, "Newjack" is a solid read. If you're interested in how the prison system works and what life inside looks like, read this book.

    It drags at times when Conover gets too detailed in his day-to-day labours, but at its best when he describes the history of the electric chair or characters like Larson, who I could only picture as Snoop Dogg. He gives guards and inmates a fair shake.
  • (3/5)
    3.5 stars. Although a brave attempt at eyewitness journalism, I never really felt the immediate danger and uncertainty that must surely accompany the job of a corrections officer.
  • (5/5)
    I want to start by saying I have immense respect for Ted Conover. When our prison system denied his request to shadow a corrections officer recruit, he sidestepped the system and applied for the position himself. His commitment to the job, in order to bring us the story, is commendable.Newjack is an honest, straightforward look at life inside a prison from the viewpoint of a corrections officer. While I read a lot on this topic, most books come from the inmate's perspective. I was shocked to learn how little training these men receive. They go from a short 7 weeks at school straight to prison work, having had absolutely no prior contact or training directly with inmates. These men and women who risk their lives each day are woefully unprepared for the reality inside those walls. This book is a scary, sad, sometimes funny look at that reality.I've long believed our prison system is a mess and only reinforces negative behavior. If you doubt that at all, you need to read this book.