New York, NY 10036
$24.95 (h); $14.00 (p)
Mr. Conover spent a year as a guard at Sing Sing, one of the
oldest and most storied of American prisons. This book is in the genre of a
participant observer study. It presents the experience of a guard in a powerful
and cogent manner. It is a fleshing out of the dramatic prison experimental
study by Zimbardo which demonstrated the power of the role of guard and prisoner
to affect behavior.
The strange, bizarre world of the prison comes alive with the
emotion, anxiety, fear, and the strengths of both guards and prisoners making do
in this hostile climate. The reader can trace the dehumanization of the guards
and staff through the training, initial probationary period, and on-the-job
experience. Some prisoners are shown to be both troublesome, dangerous, and in
conflict with the guards at all times. Others are subservient and some cooperate
as best they can. The impact of mental disorders, limited capacity, and early
experience of prisoners is evident in the descriptions of them from the
experience of a guard. Prisoners, too, are dehumanized by the demands of the
The harsh, surreal world of a prison comes through on every
page. Anyone who has a concern with the issue of prisons in this country would
do well to read this book. It is a powerful, moving, and authoritative
presentation of the fundamental conundrum of the need to protect the broader
society and the creation and imposition of a society that is the opposite of
everything the general social structure of our society is and values.
Read this one!
Reviewed by Ralph Underwager, Institute for Psychological Therapies.