Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views (05/10)
“War Stories” is a loosely connected collection of stories and memories as related by Joseph Nunziato. Joseph writes of his twenty-five year career as a Corrections Officer in Sing Sing, Green Haven, Great Meadow, and Coxsackie, four of the toughest maximum security prisons in the New York State Correctional System.
The stories selected for inclusion here are among those which have left an indelible imprint on Joseph’s memory. Some are hilarious, others tragic. All are cutting edge incidents that actually happened behind the walls of the prisons where Joseph worked.
The short chapters and fast-moving dialog entertains, informs, and builds a sense of conflict and suspense. By using image-producing words Nunziato has created a feeling of place, allowing the reader to experience life as it really is behind the imposing prison walls. He describes in detail the tiers, cell blocks, and recreation areas. The stories of his often chaotic experiences are hard hitting and give the reader a glimpse into the day-to-day uncertainties and of the volatile nature of life in the cell block.
Nunziato gives an account of the institutional philosophy and politics that influence the formation of correctional policy and procedures. He injects his own personal convictions on some of these issues as well as commenting on the changes he has seen over the years in prison reform, staff training and the recognition and abuse of prisoner rights.
The author’s humorous approach to storytelling overshadows the true depth of his effort to maintain a balance between feeling compassion versus contempt for the criminal offender. I, personally, would have appreciated more depth in this area. A distinctive theme throughout Nunziato’s writing is the respect he displayed for his fellow officers as well as his ability to see the inmates as individuals. He gives insights into how career correctional officers build a loyalty, support, and camaraderie among their peers.
“War Stories” is one of those books that anyone considering corrections as a career should read. It ought to be on the reading list of schools and colleges providing this training as well as schools specializing in training in the fields of social and political sciences.
“War Stories” by Joseph Nunziato is entertaining, educational, and informational – an all round good read.