Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing by Ted Conover & Inside: Life Behind Bars in America by Michael Santos
Ted Conover, an investigative journalist decided to investigate the conditions within Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York. Taking his investigation to a new level, Conover applied to work as a corrections officer. This decision came after being repeatedly denied the opportunity to chronicle the life of a corrections officer in training by the New York State Department of Corrections. He used this experience to author his book Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing and give a first-hand account of life as a corrections officer. Conover goes on to describe the life of a corrections ...view middle of the document...
As was discussed on our class trip to Lancaster County Prison, the corrections officers can get all the training they want but the real training comes when they start their first shift. Conover continuously examines the fear that corrections officers must live with on a daily basis.
Santos also examines the violence exuded from corrections officers. Through his book, Santos explains that his experience with corrections officers was overall a negative one. Santos portrays the corrections officers as people who valued and used the power they held to control the inmates and make them do the officers bidding. Throughout the book he emphasizes the idea that officers often abused their power. Similar to an idea discussed in class, Santos describes how the power over another individual’s life can often get to an otherwise reasonable person head. This exemplifies the results of Phillip Zimbardo and Stanford Universities Psychology departments experiment where the students who took on the roles of prison guards actually adapted the need to gain and maintain power over the other students portraying the inmates. Santos seems to be specifically living this experiment in real life incarceration.
Conover also examines the violence corrections officers experience but from the perspective of the officers. Conover, opposite of Santos, explains the fear and stress that is put on corrections officers on a daily basis. Conover further explains that the prisoners immediately pegged him and the other new trainees as the “newjacks”. The title “newjack” was what the inmates identified new corrections officers as. These officers were also essentially serving time in prison as, once they were inside for their shift, they could not leave either. Correction officers’ biggest struggle was how to handle the interaction with inmates. Although they saw each other on a day to day basis, the interaction between inmates and officers is a difficult relationship because proper interactions are not completely defined. The change from behavior learned at the academy to the actual day to day on the job interaction varied widely. This makes it difficult and stressful for officers to make sure to be careful not to slip up and perform some type of inappropriate interaction with an inmate.
Both Conover and Santos are able to convey a basic idea discussed in class. They both portray the idea of subculture among both prisoners and corrections officers alike. While each author conveys the subculture of both groups, they have their own perspective on the subculture. Obviously, Conover demonstrated in his book the correctional officers’ subculture and how they interact with each other and the inmates. Conover actually demonstrated the struggle in how correctional officers and inmates interact with each other.
The difference in the way violence is portrayed by Conover and Santos also demonstrates the differences in the ways the corrections officers and prisoners are portrayed by the...