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Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing Essay

957 words - 4 pages

In Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing journalist Ted Conover, who has a background in anthropology, goes undercover as correctional officer in order to examine the US prison system. The central problem to this analysis is that is inherently subjective because the author is documenting his experience from the lens of the guard. In such a polarizing and negative power dynamic a singular perspective shows a severely inadequate representation of what occurs at the institution and the circumstances that allow it to perpetuate. This failure is evident in the author’s personal transformation from the beginning of the book to the end. His writing becomes desensitized and begins to see prisoners as ...view middle of the document...

Correction means to repair and if the purpose of these people were to help instill change in the inmate’s lives their jobs would not be centered on viewing them as a foreign homogenous enemy whom needs controlled.
During training the parallels continue when the reader is introduced to Conover’s roommate, Dieter, a former marine soldier. Dieter is presented as the quintessential guard who upon arrival is prepared to be as aggressive as he sees fit with the inmates. This relationship is a significant example that shows Conover’s metamorphosis. In the beginning, it is clear that Conover resents the violence and physical abuse that takes place, but by the time he has fully become a guard he sees it as a completely justifiable mean to controlling prisoners. Furthermore, by constantly exhibiting instances of retaliation by the inmates the reader is led to believe the prison is a morally void environment where both sides are to blame. Conover uses examples such as the misogyny he witnesses a female guard experience as well as instances where he has been physically attacked. Hence, we begin to see how this literature is fit as a document of personal journey rather than historical analysis.
In fairness to Conover, his failure as an objective journalist could not entirely be his fault. Due to the lack of transparency with the prison systems, he is forced to go into deep cover and never reveal his true identity. He probably felt as though for every question he asked the chance the validity of his character being questioned increased. This not only leads to him becoming the subjects he is supposed to be analyzing but deprives the reader of meaningful insight on a variety of characters and their lives. A text of this nature would greatly benefit from deep examination of the stories of people he...

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