I have always been fascinated by prison life. I have no intent of experiencing it first hand and I know that I could not rely on Hollywood to accurately portray anything. While looking for a book, I saw this one and thought it would offer a unique perspective on prison life.
The concept behind Newjack was very simple yet ingenious. Author Ted Conover requested the State of New York access to the Correctional Officer training program and the COs to write a story. After what looked like a promising response from the state of New York, Mr. Conover was denied access. So Mr. Conover did the next best thing, he took the civil service exam and two years later, was accepted into the Correctional Officer training program. Upon graduating, Mr. Conover was assigned to Sing Sing Prison. Mr. Conover spent a year undercover as a Correctional Officer in the New York penal system.
I do not want unjustly portray the book in a negative light, so I will begin with he positives. I have not been to jail, but based on stories of LEOs and correctional officers I have spoken with personally, this book seems to be a pretty fair representation of life as a correctional guard in prison. The writing in this book is easy to read, much like opening a persons diary. The author also does a magnificent job describing details of his day to the point where you feel his frustration when inmates wont get into their cell or feel the electricity in the air when the author works the yard or mess line.
However, I feel the book could have greatly benefited from a better layout and altering the content. The book reminds me of an over hyped Hollywood movie. The tension is built and built, but nothing ever really happens. The initial writing in the book gives the feeling that something bad in prison happens at every turn. Initially, the book is filled with talk of inmate on guard violence, bodily fluids being thrown at guards, and prison riots. When the author is assigned to be an officer at Sing Sing, there is an expectation of bad things happening, but nothing really serious ever does. Also, the whole history of Sing Sing in the Scrap Heap chapter seemed horribly misplaced in my opinion. It seemed to bog the story way down.
Overall, I think this was an excellent representation on life as a correctional officer (basically hours of boredom with seconds of sheer terror). I think the author had a novel idea and executed it quite well. While I think the book could have benefited from some better editing, this in no way takes away from the story being told. If you want to read what life as a correctional officer is like, this is the book for you. If you are more interested in prison life from an inmates perspective, this is still a good book, but there may be better ones available. I did not regret reading this book at all.
Ever wonder what life is like inside a maximum security prison? Not from a prisoner's standpoint--novels and non-fiction abound from that viewpoint--but from a prison guard's (they refute that laymans term, they're Corrections Officers). Newjack (the nickname for a rookie CO) is the story of the author's "undercover" year as a CO at Sing Sing.
Conover gives a brilliant view of the inside prison from the guards perspective. Respect is earned and not given in the prison heiarchy of inmates, sometimes it is like dealing with the intellects of the business world and other times it is like dealing with the largest group of adolescents that are in the midst of tantrums. It takes a lot to resilience, strength in mind and body and plenty of balls to survive as a guard. Brilliant.
Easy read. I really enjoyed this book. As a current Corrections officer I was expecting a put down of my profesion just like so many other books I've read. Conover did a great job telling not only the negatives, but also that the positives that so many of us go through in our careers.
A true account by journalist Ted Conover of his experience as a guard for a year at Sing Sing prison. On the back of the book 2 of the authors that praised the book are Jon Krakauer and Sebastian Junger. That's good company to keep.