Oral History Project

Retired Star-Ledger reporter, Guy Sterling, interviewed the following people for this exhibit:
Ras Baraka (Newark Mayor), Armando B. Fontoura (Essex County Sheriff), John Trezza (former Deputy Warden), David Cannon (former guard), and Manny Castro (former guard). Their excerpted interviews are posted below. Video recording and editing by Myles Zhang and Anne Mabry.


Interviews for Exhibition

This ~20 minute video loop is featured in the exhibit for all visitors to see.


Essex County Jail Documentary for Broadcast Television

Streamed summer 2024 for the series Abandoned Engineering from Discovery Channel,
one of 24 architectural heritage sites selected each season for their international significance

Learn more about this documentary production.


Interview Clips Not Featured in Exhibit

Guy Sterling is an American journalist, author and historian. He spent most of his 35-year newspaper career as a reporter with The Star-Ledger in Newark, primarily covering the courts and criminal justice matters, the Meadowlands sports complex and the New Jersey Mafia.

View or share the full playlist of interviews on YouTube.


Ras Baraka is Newark’s 40th mayor. He is a native of Newark whose family has been in the city more than 70 years. He was elected mayor in 2014 and then re-elected in 2018. Before that, he served as a city council member from the South Ward. Baraka is the son of noted poet and playwright Amiri Baraka, who spent time in the old Essex County Jail during the civil disturbances in Newark in the late 1960s.

As the video plays, press the CC icon to view subtitles or read along from the full text pdf.


Elizabeth Del Tufo served as the first Director of cultural Affairs for Essex County and created an on-going concert series across county parks. She was the founder and the first director of Newark Arts Council. Liz served as the founding director of the Newark Boys Chorus School. A founding member, a trustee and the president, she led Newark Landmarks to oversee the nomination of 70 buildings and five neighborhoods to the National and State Register of Historic Places. Her ongoing “Newark Tour” program introduces Newark’s historic heritages to people all over New Jersey. For all her life-time contribution to the city, New Jersey Institute of Technology awarded her an honorary doctoral degree.

Liz is featured in the interview loop above, but she was not interviewed by Guy.


Armando B. Fontoura is Essex County’s longest-serving sheriff. He began his law enforcement career as a Newark police officer before being appointed undersheriff in 1986. He took over as sheriff four years later and has been re-elected to the post every three years ever since. As sheriff in Essex County, he presides over the largest and most active sheriff’s department in the state. A native of Portugal, Fontoura attended Newark public schools and is a graduate of Newark State Teachers College.


John Trezza worked in Essex County corrections from 1950 until his retirement in 1978, starting as a guard and retiring as a deputy warden. He grew up in Orange in a family of nine boys and no girls. He later was elected a commissioner in Orange and served as the township’s public safety director.


Dave Cannon began his career in corrections at the old Essex County Jail in Newark when he was 21 and ended it a quarter-century later at the jail on Nelson Place. Before signing on at the jail, he worked as a security guard. A native of Newark, Dave grew up in Union and played football at Union High School during some of the school’s glory years.


Manuel “Manny” Castro grew up in Newark’s Ironbound section and began working in Essex County corrections in 1969. He started as a guard and ended his career in 2005 as a sergeant. His 36 years in the system made him the county’s longest-serving corrections officer. He was also the only officer to serve in all four county jails – New and Newark streets, Nelson Place, Caldwell, and Doremus Avenue.


Jail Demographics


Geography of a Jail: John Trezza and Manny Castro

Jail Riot: Manny Castro


The Gallows: Armando B. Fontoura, David Cannon, and John Trezza


The Forgotten Man: David Cannon


Mole People: David Cannon


Jailhouse Muslims: John Trezza, David Cannon, and Manny Castro