Picks and Pans Review: Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing

updated 07/10/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/10/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Ted Conover

Soon after taking a position as a corrections officer at the New York maximum-security prison known as Sing Sing for this riveting study, Conover gets the gist of his new job from a veteran guard: "To get out of here in one piece at 3 p.m." Con-over's previous books immersed him in Aspen's social elite and the world of illegal aliens. This time, while guarding vicious criminals (who ridicule him as "Barney," the slow-witted deputy on The Andy Griffith Show), he gets to practice "cell-extraction" (forcibly removing an inmate from his cell) and dehumanizing strip searches. After he is attacked (an inmate punches him in the head), his sympathy for the prisoners erodes; inmates are "not all bad," he writes, "just most of them." When Conover's one-year stint is over, he is wiser—not to mention wearier—for exploring a world that most of us would never dream of entering. (Random House, $24.95)

Bottom Line: Hits home

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