Book Review on Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing by Ted Conover


The chosen book for this assignment is Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing by Ted Conover. In this book, Conover uses literature to unearth American society’s culture fascinatingly. The author traces the experience of a correlation officer of Sing Sing Prison in New York. The book was selected because of the method used to collect primary data for writing. Conover immerses himself as one of the correctional officers after his request to observe prison life is denied. The personal experience helps Conover connect with the reader as well to answer a question on the interrelationship within a correctional facility. I believe the author’s method of conveying the theme in the book through personal experience is useful in creating an accurate portrayal of the prison life rather than a mere exaggeration. As the main protagonist, Conover successful provides an accurate account of prison. The book is written for the whole American society to have a glimpse in the rarely explored prison society. The book is suitable for policymakers and the criminal justice system to understand the dynamics of incarceration and recidivism better because it is grounded on hands-on knowledge from a correctional officer perspective.

Have any questions about the topic? Our Experts can answer any question you have. They are avaliable to you 24/7.
Ask now


The book is a nonfiction account of Conover’s brave quest to have a first-hand account of prison life in America. In chapter 1, the reader is introduced to Sing Sing prison lifestyle. The section reflects on the protagonist’s decision to go undercover and unearth the truth on operation within a prison. This is a decision he makes after several interviews with prison officials and a request to observe the prison life is declined (Conover, 2001). The author’s journey begins with recruitment into the state academy for a corrections officer.

Chapter 2 introduces the masculine aggression and abusive lifestyle in the training academy. The protagonist soon finds out the untrue myth that the corrections academy is much more comfortable than the military academy. The going gets tough in chapter three for the author. Despite the transformation from civilian to a uniformed officer through harsh environmental training, none of the hard training prepared him for the hard reality at Sing Sing prison. As Conover soon finds out, violent confrontation and retribution is a common occurrence in a prison facility. The mentality instilled in the training helps Conover quickly adapt to the lifestyle changes as an officer. Conover discovers that rules in prison for the guards and prisoners are followed to the book. However, the nurture of interaction at work affects his relationship with the family.


The central ides contained in the book revolves around morality and violence originating from the criminal justice system. Conover (2000) tries to show the American public the reality in prison. The protagonist experience digs deep into the fundamental objective of a prison facility to be a closet for restoration and transformation instead of being a punishment center. Instead of being a safe space for guiding criminals, Conover uses Sing Sing prison in New York to reveal the physical and psychological challenges for both prisoners and corrections officers. Conover explains that unlike at the beginning where he used to follow the training manual, he soon learns the significance of instinct and selective governing (Conover, 2001). In his mind, Conover knows he is just here for a short while. But he realizes that for him to survive the period, he must form a productive relationship with the workplace environment while still following the law. The way Conover makes his feelings known on what he has to deal with at work is a call for help in terms of prison reforms to encourage a healthy working condition for correction officers.

From the very beginning, Conover was focused on revealing the loopholes in the American justice system. Given that the United States has the highest number of prisoners is an indication of the ailing system in the nation. I am impressed with the author’s style of collecting data. The participant observation method provides a detailed description of the justice system with a forensic eye and human understanding. The mandatory sentence for drug offenders is highlighted as one of the failed approaches that have caused an increased population in prisons. In the end, the book is a glimpse of a gap criminal justice system that has put millions of Americans behind bars while they would have been outside being productive citizens (Conover, 2001). Primarily, the book highlights the interrelated social problems arising from the daily interaction between the correction office and prisoners. Conover nature of work as a guard at Sing Sing Prison provides him with the highest degree of access which helps him to document the culture that has been kept away from the public eye. As explained in the book on the social order requires a balance between maximum security and the provided freedom.


The book has successfully provided an insight into the social order in an American prison, which can be tampered with in the presence of violence from prisoners and frustration from the correction officer. Conover insists that effective reforms within the criminal justice system foster a positive outlook for the officers while enforcing the law, review the rehabilitation programs for the inmates and encourage good relationships between correction officers and inmates. Apart from ensuring that prison officers develop a love for their work in contemporary society, the criminal justice system should also ensure prisons are a reform facility instead of being a punishment. I agree with Conover’s argument that a healthy atmosphere should be created within the prison walls to ensure offenders come out as better individuals.



Conover, T. (2001). Newjack: Guarding sing sing. Vintage.