Guarding Sing Sing

Topics: Prison, Penology, Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing Pages: 3 (1228 words) Published: June 22, 2005
Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing

Unable to get official permission to interview and write about correctional officers, Ted Conover, author of the book Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing, "got in" by applying for a correctional officer position. After training, he and his fellow rookies, known as "newjacks," were randomly assigned to Sing Sing, one of the country's most famous -- and infamous -- prisons. Sing Sing, a maximum-security male prison, was built in 1828 by prisoners themselves, kept at their task by frequent use of the whip. Today, the chaos, the backbiting, the rundown building and equipment, the disrespect and the relentless stress that Conover experienced in his year at Sing Sing show, quite well, how the increase of prisons in the U.S. brutalizes more than just the prisoners. Some of the individuals in Conover's entering "class" of corrections trainees had always wanted to work in law enforcement. Others were ex-military, looking for a civilian job that they thought would reward structure and discipline. But most came looking for a steady job with good benefits. To get it, they were desperate enough to commute hours each way, or even to live apart from their families during the work week. Their job consists of long days locking and unlocking cells, moving prisoners to and from various locations while the prisoners beg, hassle and abuse them. Sometimes, the prisoners' requests are simple, but against the rules: an extra shower, some contraband cigarettes. Other times, they are appropriate, but unbelievably complicated: it can take months to get information about property lost in the transfer from one prison to another. Meanwhile, the orders officers give are ignored. Discipline -- even among...
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