Thursday, August 27, 2009


This picture was taken in 1903, and shows a group of prisoners working in a field. They don't appear to be chained together, but perhaps there are guards nearby but not in the picture.

In the comments the last few days a few people had wondered if there were still chain gangs. I don't know of any in the sense of convicts chained together working on a road, but in Texas they do send prisoners out on work detail. They don't wear striped clothes any more, but have very bright orange jumpsuits. You see them out cleaning the sides of the highways. Here in Texas, you can even have them send a prison work crew out to do work on your private property. Say you have some land you want cleared, you can have them send a work detail over, and they will clear the property for you. If I understand it right, it is completely voluntary . . . a prisoner could sit in jail, or go out and work on the work detail. If you have them come out, I don't think it costs much, you feed them, and pay for the gas to get them out to you. If it were me, I would rather be out on a work detail than sitting in jail.


  1. There are still work crews from our jails here in Georgia as well!

  2. they've made some jails too nice. flat screen tv's, computers and air conditioning so here in Missouri we don't see many work gangs. In fact, the jail have air and our schools don't. There is something wrong with that.

  3. We wouldn't want to step on the murders and rapist rights, now would we.
    So many bleeding heart out there making sure we molly coddle those poor murders and rapist.
    Besides the children in our schools don't have lawyers either.

  4. Got them here in NC too. And they shoot dead a runner every year at least. Amazing.


  5. wow.... something a bit disturbing about that picture is that (besides the fact that all of the prisoners are black) most of these prisoners are actually *children.* So sad. Thankfully we have come a long way in our treatment of delinquent youth. I was just reading a very encouraging article (on CNN, I think) about the "Missouri model" for incarcerated youth. The recidivism rate is something like only 10%... like I said, encouraging☺

  6. What we need is more people like
    Sheriff Joe Arpaio from
    Maricopa County, Ariz.
    Make them live in tent cities with out any TV or Air Conditioning.
    Way to go Sheriff Arpaio.

  7. I see convict work crews often in the Willamette Valley where I live.

    My boss was in charge of a group of teens that had been sentenced to community service for painting graffiti and their service was to paint the side of the building they defaced.

    He gave them 1 inch paintbrushes to do the job. :)

    He still smiles.


  8. PJM, You don't need a tractor to clear your brush - get a chain gang!

  9. There are for sure work crews. I found a picture of a chain gang from Angola Prison in Louisiana. They wore striped pants and hot pink shirts that said "sober work crew" or something like that.

  10. The southern states found chain gangs a great way to use colored prisoners as cheap labor, even after they were set free.

  11. I’m not sure this is a “regular” group of prisoners at all - from the looks of most of the “prisoners,” it may very well be a group of juvenile offenders. And I think the reson why everyone in the photo is black is probably because some prisons were segregated years ago.

    Persuaded - although I am an strong advocate for inmate rehabilitation and believe that child offenders certainly should be treated differently, there are still some individuals who commit horrible crimes and cannot be rehabilitated.

    I suggest you Google the name “Craig Price,” and you’ll see what I mean. This kid murdered four innocent people in his Warwick Rhode Island, neighborhood, all BEFORE he was 15 years old. In 1987, he killed a woman who lived a couple of houses away from his family; and then in 1989 he murdered another neighbor and her two little girls, ages 8 and 10. In all instances, he stabbed them to death. He has described the murders in detail in several Providence Journal articles that you can read online; and he seems to enjoy telling his story.

    At that time, the Rhode Island juvenile laws stipulated that no matter how egregious the crime, the offender had to be released at age 21 and his record expunged. After Craig Price, the laws were changed. The state has managed to extend Price’s sentence by various other means, including contempt of court, refusing to submit to a psychiatric examination, and for repeatedly attacking guards and other inmates. He is currently in a maximum security prison in Florida - they shipped him out of state because he’s too dangerous. He recently attacked another guard there.

    Unfortunately, this guy is going to get out sooner or later, and I’m sure he’s going to kill someone else. Google in his image, too. He’s definitely not someone you’d want living near you. It’s scary.

  12. We have prison road crews here, too, in Rhode Island. They are usually the minimum security guys, and they pick up trash and mow the grass, etc.. I think the Texas idea is great - getting prisoners to do work in the private sector.

    I see nothing wrong with manual labor as long as the prisoners are treated humanely.

    The only problem with that is that in Rhode Island, organized labor has such a stranglehold on the state, that the unions would never allow it. They have most of our legislature in their pockets, so it won’t happen.

    Although I am opposed to flat-screen TVs and other “extras” in prisons, I still believe that as a nation, we do not do enough to rehabilitate many prisoners. Here in RI, our Dept. of Corrections has instituted a NEADS dog training program. Prisoners who meet certain criteria are selected to train assistance dogs for the handicapped, the hearing impaired, and disabled Iraq war veterans. It gives the prisoners pride, self-esteem and a purpose in life. After the dogs are placed, they return with their owners to visit their trainers - it is a powerful experience that fosters respect on all sides as well as a wonderful rehabilitative tool.

  13. It would be nice to see some of the wallstreet and bank robbers and politicians out there working on the chain gangs.


    apparently he is still at it~

  15. Anon:

    Yes, Price just attacked another guard in Florida.

    Did you see his photo - maybe he'll get killed in prison before he gets out.

    God, I hope he doesn't come back up here. I think his family all moved away.


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