Prison Sentence

Friday, August 28, 2009


Journalist Ted Conover went undercover for nearly one year working as a prison guard at Sing Sing Correctional Facility in upstate New York. His work was praised and criticized. As Conover told us in October, his time undercover was incredibly stressful, painfully isolating and ethically fraught but nonetheless it was necessary to get the story out.

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Comments [3]

Elisabeth from Los Angeles

TED CONOVER: Oh sure. I mean, that’s how you keep going back, because every day you’re seeing something none of your friends have ever seen and that most people in society don't know about. I was wearing two hats at the same time. I mean, the guard was, by far, what occupied my consciousness and everything else most of the day, ‘cause that was so demanding.

But at some level I was also thinking, wow, I've got to write that down. And then I could step into this little office I had – it was a cell converted to an o - it had a desk instead of a bunk. And I, I'd write down, like, a joke - how many C.O.s does it take to push an inmate down the stairs?


TED CONOVER: None. He fell. [BROOKE LAUGHS] Okay, so I would write that down. I'd write down slang. I'd write down stuff that I knew I'd want to put into my notes. And so, yes, that is exciting to think - I am just seeing amazing things, and the telling of this, it’s going to be really satisfying to be able to stop someday and put all this down.

The ethics of Conover AND Brooke Gladstone are a matter for serious questions. How is this funny, Ms. Gladstone and Mr. Conover? And just what exactly does your laughter say about you?

I was sickened beyond belief listening to the segment. My 12-year-old daughter looked at me like she couldn't believe what she was hearing -- an NPR reporter and a Pulitzer Prize winning author laughing at abusing inmates and violating civil rights and the constitution. Not funny at all.

Aug. 31 2009 11:08 PM
prisondoc from berkeley

I have worked as a physician in a california state prison for the last 3 year. I find absurdity and complete disbelieve that your interviewer expressed at the idea of Mr. Conover promoting within the custody system to be somewhat offensive and certainly elitist. Just as in all walks of life there is a wide diversity of beliefs and interests among correctional staff. I have seen some amazing acts of kindness and compassion and am friends with a number of correctional officers who are truly exceptional people.

Aug. 30 2009 06:01 PM
Dr. Jill Schaeffer from upstate New York

I taught inmates at Sing-Sing for 6 years in a graduate program of New York Theological Seminary. After four years, some of the corrections' officers and I began to have just ordinary conversations. But it was a stretch. I'd be interested in knowing if Mr. Conover ever got down to the dungeon chapel where the Chaplains had their offices, and religious groups their chapels. That's where I hung out.

Aug. 29 2009 08:41 AM

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