Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing

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Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing is a non-fiction book by Ted Conover, published in 2000. In the book, Conover, a journalist and university professor, recounts his experience of learning about the New York State correctional system by becoming a correctional officer for nearly a year. The author went to such lengths after being repeatedly denied cooperation by the New York State Department of Correctional Services. In the book, he divulges the inner-workings of the system.

It starts with his seven week para-military training academy, which extolls the virtues of excellence and diligence. Beside having to pass the academic portion of the academy, recruits are required to face the grueling exposure to tear gas and complete a timed physical performance test. Instructors define the job of correctional officers as the “care, custody, and control” of inmates, but what was never discussed in any of Conover’s academy lessons was the moral aspects. After his graduation, Conover's story continues as he is assigned to Sing Sing correctional facility. Even though officers have the knowledge of procedures, their inexperience is registered immediately and the new arriving officers are identified by the moniker New Jack.

In his summation, Conover determines the true role of correctional officers to be the “ware-housers of human beings.” Half the time he is in danger and scared for his life. He must learn how to deal with the inmates and survive the nightmarish conditions.

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