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Chain Gangs: A Proper Correctional Tool?

NCJ Number
Law and Psychology Review Volume: 20 Dated: (Spring 1996) Pages: 231-243
R L Morris
Date Published
13 pages
This analysis of the history, characteristics, and legal issues related to chain gangs in corrections concludes that States wanting to operate chain gangs should be able to do so.
Chain gangs of the 1940's and 1950's sometimes experienced atrocious conditions. Those conditions have partly influenced current perceptions of chain gangs. Offenders currently serving on chain gangs in Alabama work 12 hours per day, primarily doing road cleaning along highways. They are denied visitation privileges and prevented from watching television or listening to the radio. They are usually assigned to chain gangs after volunteering for the work as an alternative to receiving some type of punishment for misconduct in prison. However, some are assigned because they are repeat offenders or because the judge prefers it. It is not clear whether the Constitution prohibits modern chain gangs. Proponents of chain gangs use arguments such as deterrence and the imposition of fitting punishments. The contrary views do not substantially counter the policy concerns supporting them. Thus, neither constitutional nor policy concerns should prevent the use of chain gangs. Footnotes


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