by Sukey HowardAugust, 2000
The Big House
Author and journalist Ted Conover believes in being a "participant observer," immersing himself in the lives he chronicles. So, when he wanted to write about prison guards, he turned things upside down and went "up the river" to break into jail. After graduating from the training academy, Conover spent a year as a prison guard or, more correctly, a Corrections Officer. Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing is the arresting, unsettling account of his rookie year in that infamous maximum security prison, a place that dehumanizes guards and inmates alike, where tedium and terror, brutality and boredom fill every day. Conover, who reads with the natural ease of a professional actor, weaves a skillful history of Sing Sing and our sadly malfunctioning prison system into his narrative.