Bob Hatrak, the youngest warden of a maximum-security prison in America, Rahway State Prison (now called East Jersey State Prison), took a "do-it-yourself" approach to life and work: The child of immigrants, Hatrak suffered a devastating accident that ended his burgeoning baseball career and led him to the forefront of modern prison reform—and discovering boxer James Scott. Hatrak spearheaded the Boxing Association, including a live HBO-produced match at Rahway Prison featuring inmate James Scott in his rise to become the second-highest ranked contender in the World Boxing Association's light heavyweight division—and one of the most incredible and uplifting stories in boxing history.
In addition to working with Scott, Hatrak created programs where inmates were empowered to envision their path after incarceration and were given the choice to join self-rehab groups that had positive effects both within the prison system (for staff and inmates alike) and, for many, on life “outside.”
Bob’s insight and compassion were the driving force behind these various vocational training programs, which most notably included The Escorts, a group of convicts who created various albums that collectively sold over 300,000 copies and performed a sold-out show at Newark New Jersey’s Symphony Hall while incarcerated; the Juvenile Awareness Program (subsequently earning an Academy Award and an Emmy Award for the Scared Straight! documentary film featuring Rahway’s Lifers Group).
Bob’s story is personal, professional, gut-wrenching and inspirational and recounted in the memoir Not On My Watch. His story is a reminder that as a society, we have a long way to travel on the path to justice and equality, as well as a guidebook on how to get there.
Drawing from his expertise and key themes in Not On My Watch, Bob Hatrak is available for interviews and can also discuss:
- Inside the Rahway prison riot that changed the trajectory of his career forever
- The benefits of higher education for incarcerated individuals in work and life
- Hatrak’s journey of self-reinvention: Overcoming the tragic accident that meant he’d never pitch in baseball again
- Life lessons Hatrak learned as the child of immigrants
- Facing death threats: The secret behind Bob and his family’s safety measures
- Behind the creation of the Lifers Juvenile Awareness Program for vulnerable teens and why scaring the crime out of kids isn’t pretty—but it works
- How to address employee and inmate concerns to improve overall life, health and safety
- The surprising benefits of boxing in prisons
- Prison and drugs: How Hatrak attacked the drug problem of Rahway State Prison
- How today’s maximum-security prisons can eliminate violence
All the very best,
Jessica Sager (she/her), Publicist, Smith Publicity, Inc.
ABOUT BOB HATRAK
Bob Hatrak, the famed Rahway State Prison warden, has a rich history—and it began as a child of immigrants whose dreams of being a Major League Baseball star were crushed after a devastating injury.
Out of college, Hatrak pivoted his plans and became a high school teacher and head basketball coach. He started a career in corrections in 1967 when he accepted the Director of Education position at the Trenton State Prison in New Jersey. In 1973, he was asked to assume the warden’s position at the notorious, violent and riot-torn Rahway State Prison (now called East Jersey State Prison).
Under Hatrak’s leadership, violence at Rahway State Prison decreased dramatically, and the penitentiary became a model for prisoner rehabilitation across the state of New Jersey. In recognition of his contributions to the boxing vocational trades school, Hatrak has been inducted into the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame. His approach to prison management helped Rahway go from its prior reputation of a chaotic, dangerous and fearful detention center to one that the American Justice Institute honored as one of the five “most stable maximum-security prisons in America.”
Once he left Rahway State Prison, Hatrak led a corrections department in the Pacific Northwest, worked as a state department of corrections director and deputy director and owned and operated a successful prison consulting business for 22 years with his wife (and Not On My Watch co-author) Joan.