Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing
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Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  1,938 ratings  ·  230 reviews
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 tou...more
Audio, Abridged, 0 pages
Published May 1st 2000 by Nova Audio Books (first published May 2nd 1999)
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Larry Bassett
I like books where the author immerses him or herself in a situation and then writes from his or her own experience. Barbara Ehrenreich has done this for several of her books. After my mother was sentenced to jail for civil disobedience, she has a much better understanding of who is in our jails and why. This was knowledge that she might have been able to get from reading a book, but having the experience was so much more powerful. Ted Conover writes as an outsider who chose to spend some time a...more
Elliot Ratzman
Prison memoirs by prisoners are plentiful, shocking and tragically predictable; few have narrated the working life of prison guards, doing a “life sentence eight hours at a time.” I read 4/5 of this excellent book in a day—I highly recommend it. The author, Ted Connover, goes through the process of becoming a Corrections Officer in the NY state system. After a few months of hellish basic training, he is thrown “into the deep end” working in Sing Sing prison. Need I say it’s like one big Zimbardo...more
Mike
Ted Conover has the crazy idea of working undercover in Sing Sing for a year. This is every bit as scary as it sounds, and without being sensationalistic he shows why being a prison guard is one of the worst jobs imaginable. Conover has compassion for both the prisoners and the guards, without losing his objectivity or coming off as a bleeding heart. In addition to being a great piece of investigative journalism, the book gives you a harrowing account of Sing Sing's history. You discover that, j...more
Brendan
Much much more than participant journalism, Conover's ambitious yearlong journey at Sing Sing as a corrections officer (don't call him a prison guard) produced this nonfiction masterpiece. Over the course of NEWJACK (prison slang for officer trainee), the reader sees Conover undergo many transitions: from excited trainee to disillusioned officer, from hardass guard to sympathetic friend of the inmates. Also, playing historian and anthropologist, Conover steps back from his personal experience to...more
Emily Goenner
Interesting, but I have a prison connection at the moment which made it real and relevant. Society's prison culture is a topic, though, that should be of interest to more people due to its size, growth, and the destruction it causes to families of inmates and guards. Conover is engaging, astute, and colorfully describes many of the characters he meets, inmates and other guards alike.
Mike
'Newjack' is a commendable book and achievement, as the author, Ten Conover, spent a year working in Sing Sing prison as a correction officer and meticulously recorded his experience.

He exposes the hypocrisy of correction officer training which stresses strict adherence to rules versus the real life mishmash of daily rule following on the job. He dispels some common myths about prison guards (they aren’t all terrible inflictors of random violence, as seen in movies) and prisoners (they aren’t...more
Ensiform
The author, an anthropologist journalist, went through basic training and became a corrections officer in Sing Sing for a year. The usually secret world he uncovers --- of brutality (almost entirely on the inmates’ side), of facing danger daily, of learning to enforce some rules and let others slide --- is fascinating. He also makes some fine discoveries about the criminal mind; while he does get chummy with some inmates, by the end, he finds himself both invigorated and repelled by the violence...more
Darcia Helle
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 lea...more
Molly
While volunteering in a maximum security prison, I found I was as nervous around the guards as I was the prisoners. In fact, I did not really care for prison guards at all, but now that I came across this excellent piece of investigative journalism while touring the Eastern State Penitentiary, I am on fire about prison reform and profoundly confused at the complexities involved. Ted Conover spent a year as a corrections officer, and his experiences are told alongside an accessible and interestin...more
Jim
This is an interesting book about life inside prison by one of America's most innovative authors/journalists.

Conover made numerous requests of corrections authorities to visit Sing Sing, one of New York state's (and America's) most notorious prisons. He was denied time and time again any opportunity to visit, or interview inmates, officers, etc. Conover, unlike most writers, who would have given up and picked a new topic, applies for admission to New York's correctional officer training academy...more
Converse

Ted Conover, a journalist, spent about a year as a corrections officer (don't call them guards, that is too accurate for comfort) in the maximum security portion of Sing Sing, a New York state prison located in Westchester county. He took this unusual career move when the authorities showed no interest in letting a journalist poke around the state corrections system by more ordinary means. Sing Sing is one of the oldest prisons in the New York state system; the originally buildings (unused, dam

...more
Aaron
I got this book out of the library after hearing what must have been an old interview on Fresh Air with Ted Conover (the book was published in 2000). Some disapproved of his methods. He wanted to learn about being a prison guard, but no one in the DOCS system would let him shadow a new recruit. So he signed up himself and did all the testing and training and then worked as a CO at Sing Sing for a year.

The result is a really good book. No huge revelations, but a good thorough interesting if rath...more
Badly Drawn Girl

A gripping page turner that reads like a novel, Newjack is a book that gives outsiders a glimpse of the realities of prison. Ted Conover goes undercover because he isn't granted any access to information as a journalist. But he doesn't approach it as an undercover stint, he goes through correctional officer training with the intention of becoming a CO. The reader gets to experience it all alongside him... training, first day jitters, fears, biases, friendships, and violence. I have read a lot of...more
Patriotgirl1
As someone who works in corrections, I thought it was gutsy the way Conover got the background to write his book. He actually took the time and energy to apply as a corrections officer and got the job! For someone that doesn't know anything about corrections, he takes you in this sub-culture from the beginning and takes the reader though the steps necessary to become a corrections officer. From there, the reader is taken inside the prison, with its' many officers, nuances of prison life and the...more
Mia
For the past few summers, I've read about shipwrecks; this summer, I thought I'd venture into another of my greatest fears: prison. I have such a fear of going to prison that I can't watch movies or shows set there--no Shawshank Redemption or Oz for me. So I picked up Conover's book hoping it would provide me with an insider's perspective at a more bearable remove, and it did. Readers can learn about prison culture and practices from Conover's perspective as a newly trained corrections officer a...more
Michael
An excellent book that I had been looking forward to reading. It was worth it. He spends a year as a prison guard…er…correctional officer, going though the academy, on-the-job training, and then a year becoming an experienced correctional officer (CO). In the middle he gets historical and writes a bit about Sing Sing prison, the history of prisons in terms of punishment versus reformation, and capital punishment methods.

Conover may not answer all the questions one wants but he certainly raises t...more
Bobbi
Undercover Corrections Officer <p>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.</p>
<p></p>
<p>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 S...more
J.A. Callan
Ever wonder what life is like for the average prison guard (or Corrections Officer, to be PC)? Well, this is the book for you, then. Conover displays guts of steel in his undertaking of this project - masquerading as a corrections officer in order to gain the experience of what life is like for a prison officer in New York's Sing Sing Prison (The only prison in the world, I learned, which has a commuter track running through it!)

The book delves into the lives of officers and inmates. The officer...more
Bob Lake
This is a very interesting look at life inside the penitentiary from the viewpoint of a "guard". I immediately followed my reading of this book with a reading of Inside: Life Behind Bars in America by Michael G. Santos, which is a look at penitentiary life from the viewpoint of the inmate. This combination made for an interesting look at the viewpoints of these two groups.
Victoria Weinstein
Preachers, start your highlighters. This is a powerful book about how guarding prisoners degrades the souls of those working in the system just as surely as it degrades the souls of those in lock-up.
Kristin
At first I thought it was just going to be another one of those testosterone laden books but it turned into a very thoughtful and perceptive piece about the prison system. The history of Sing Sing, which included how incarceration became the punishment rather than a temporary status, was fascinating. In an ironic twist, the last page before the afterward was torn out. Fortunately one of my friends is a Conover fan and I was able to amend the situation before returning my copy to the library. In...more
Dev
Somewhat interesting but rarely exciting look at what it takes to be a prison guard.
Liralen
Here's one for the 'jobs I never knew I didn't want' list (previous entries include vet and farmer). I suppose this could be called stunt journalism -- unable to gain access to the Sing Sing corrections system as a reporter, Conover simply became a corrections officer himself -- but if so, it is stunt journalism at its best.

Conover had originally hoped only to shadow a recruit going through the training process, and when he submitted his own application to be a CO, that was his end goal -- get t...more
Dachokie
Zookeeping 101 …

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 enli...more
Ron
As in "Coyotes" and "Rolling Nowhere," Ted Conover goes undercover, immersing himself in the world he writes about. This time, instead of traveling with undocumented field workers and hoboes, he takes a job as a prison guard ("corrections officer" is the preferred term) to learn something of the inner workings of the American penal system. Over a period of eight months, after his training, he is assigned to what is apparently the most volatile, chaotic, and fabled prisons in NY state, Sing Sing....more
Mick
For the longest time, I've felt that I'm missing out on some essential element of masculinity by never having been in the armed forces. I've never had to test myself in the quintessential male proving ground, and the knowledge that I've never been pushed to my physical and emotional limit wears on me. A bit. I mean, I don't stop going to coffee shops and living my bohemian life, but still. I get the sense sometimes that there's something missing.

Ted Conover has his own version of this feeling,...more
Zane
Jun 27, 2008 Zane rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: prison activists, corrections officers, creative non-fiction lovers
The premise of this book is that the author Ted Conover got a job as a ‘corrections officer’ in Sing Sing to see what it was like to be a prison guard. Seeing as how he looks ‘not tough’ and was used to hanging out with the high society of New York (not the magazine), he comes off pretty whiny sometimes, but it is clear that it is a pretty terrible job, in part due to the stress and psychological requirements necessary to telling people what to do all the time and, in turn, being resented for it...more
Andrew Benedict-Nelson
The blurb from Tracy Kidder on the back of this book compares it with the journalism of Orwell (Homage to Catalonia, Down and Out in Paris and London, Burmese Days) and I have to agree.

While no one could duplicate Orwell's way of subtly imbuing every moment of a narrative with political meaning, Newjack has a different kind of appeal: Conover, perhaps because of the ordeal he endured, allows himself to become much more vulnerable in his text than old Eric Blair ever did. It might be that vulnera...more
Ilaria
Un giornalista vuole scoprire come vivono guardie e detenuti in un carcere di massima sicurezza; ma le autorità gli impediscono di entrare. Decide allora di diventare guardia carceraria: si sottopone a un addestramento severissimo e rimane a Sing Sing per un anno, in incognito, documentando tutto ciò che accade dietro il filo spinato e le torrette di guardia: violenza, droga, malattia mentale, ma anche storie di riscatto e momenti di grande umanità.

L’impatto è difficile: il carcere è un mondo c

...more
Bernadette
This book is about a journalist who becomes a corrections officer (commonly referred to as prison guard)at Sing Sing Prison to discover what it is really like to be a guard, especially as compared to common representations of them in popular media such as movies and television shows.

While the book covers some history of American prisons and punitive operations it largely deals with his day to day struggle to be a good officer in the face of a lot of stress in a difficult job. While Conover is c...more
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Ted Conover, a "master of experience-based narrative nonfiction" (Publisher's Lunch), is the author of many articles and five books including Rolling Nowhere: Riding the Rails with America's Hoboes, Coyotes: A Journey Across Borders with America's Mexican Migrants, Whiteout: Lost in Aspen, Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing (winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and finalist for the Pulitzer P...more
More about Ted Conover...
Coyotes: A Journey Through the Secret World of America's Illegal Aliens Rolling Nowhere: Riding the Rails with America's Hoboes The Routes of Man: How Roads Are Changing the World and the Way We Live Today Whiteout: Lost in Aspen The Fair Ophelia (Kindle Single)

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