‘Not On My Watch’ is the memoir of Bob Hatrak, who was the youngest warden of a maximum-security prison in America, Rahway State. It is an inspirational story of how one man with great vision, overcame personal adversity to become one of the most notable and progressive prison reformers of our time. Together with his wife Joan, Bob tells of his ‘do-it-yourself’ approach. Inmates were empowered to envision their path after incarceration and were given the choice to join self-rehab groups with common interests. Bob’s insight and compassion was the driving force that created the “Scared Straight” program, which he developed in the 1970’s, and is still being used today throughout the United States and abroad, as a means of deterring juvenile crime. He is also credited for enabling ‘one of the most unbelievable stories in all of boxing’, that of James Scott, a convicted murderer, and his rise to be the contender to the title of ‘light heavy-weight champion of the world’ … while he was incarcerated. Bob’s story is personal, professional, gut-wrenching, inspirational … but most important … a reminder that as a society, we have a long way to travel on the path to justice, equality, and reform.
Early Reviews for ‘Not on My Watch’
“I found Bob and Joan Hatrak’s book totally engrossing; written in a personal and easily read manner. And as I read it, my thoughts flooded with memories of simpler days; playing stick ball in the street, hide and seek at dusk, hanging out with friends at the soda shop, and the innocent laughter of my childhood. There were also times I choked back tears, thinking about the abrupt changes in his life, forced on him by a tragic accident. But the lessons he learned as a child, and the support of his family, friends, and priests served him well. Throughout his life, he met every challenge with a determination that is awe-inspiring.
To say that Warden Hatrak’s accomplishments at Rahway State Prison were extraordinary is an understatement. His personal approach to interacting with the prison’s residents often placed him in mortal danger, yet he did not flinch from his tasks and treated each man with respect and dignity. In return, the residents learned to trust their Warden, and he earned their respect. This was no small victory in consideration of the riot and violence which preceded his appointment as the Warden.
Bob wrote about his fears, his doubts and his disappointments in life, and his enormous successes. This humble man was always quick to give credit for success to the men and women who worked for him and the residents in his charge. He will probably be remembered most for “Scared Straight” and the prison inmates’ boxing victories, but what this remarkable man should be praised for is his belief in second chances. Bob Hatrak is a testament to all that is good and noble. I am honored to have known him even briefly as my Basketball Coach in the 1960s. “
– Barry L. Jackson, Ph.D., LPC, NCC, NCP, BCPC – Fulbright Senior Scholar