I'm about to finish Ted Conover's book Newjack (2000). The author has a unique way of writing. It's called participant observation. He lives the lives of his subjects-- is totally immersed in it-- and then writes a book about them. In Newjack, he secretly becomes a prison guard (he prefers correctional officer) for a year at a maximum security prison in New York and writes about his experience. It is a gripping tale and one wonders how a bookish guy like him was able to handle the ordeal.
I first learned about Conover when I read Coyotes, where he lived with, crossed the border with (three times), and worked with Mexican migrants looking for farm work in America. I was not fond of his latest book, The Routes of Man. After Newjack, I'm going to try to find his first book, Rolling Nowhere, which is about his travels on trains with tramps.
Newjack not only looks at the lives of prison guards and their wards, but about the whole prison industrial complex, how America deals with crime and criminals, and the evolution of incarceration in America.
Here is Charlie Rose interviewing Conover about the book.
Here's Conover's site.