Washington," 2 Oct. Charles Jones Has Died at 82," 13 Jan. Pierson from Pearce's novel of comradeship and individual conflict on a southern chain gang , is the product of Jack Lemmon's Jalem Productions and is a potentially strong release. Send us feedback. See more words from the same year Dictionary Entries near chain gang chainer chain feed chain fern chain gang chain gear chain-grate stoker chain harrow. Accessed 13 Nov. Keep scrolling for more More Definitions for chain gang chain gang.
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Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher. Ireland, From the Reconstruction era to the late s, the use of prisoners in chain gangs to perform hard labor, especially in building and maintaining public roads, was a common practice in North Carolina and throughout the South. Established by law as a means of punishment in the late nineteenth century, working on a chain gang became a standard sentence for vagrancy and petty larceny, although in North Carolina it was also inflicted on any able-bodied male prisoner serving a sentence of up to ten years. Living conditions for chain gang convicts were frequently horrific, with sanitation practically nonexistent and diseases and illnesses common. This was especially true if prisoners were housed in temporary living quarters-often railroad boxcars or caged vehicles easily transported from site to site. Prisoners frequently suffered at the hands of brutal overseers. Over time, the image of men, many of them African Americans, shackled with leg irons to prevent their escape came to symbolize the cruelties of imprisonment as well as the injustices associated with racial and economic inequality in the segregated South.
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In the early s, dramatic stories of the abuse and wretched conditions of convict laborers began to be publicized through trials and newspaper accounts. The egregiousness of the violence and corruption of the system began to turn public opinion against convict leasing. Though many citizens and politicians wanted to abolish convict leasing, the problem of the expense and difficulty of housing convicts remained. Chain gangs developed as a popular solution to that problem. Chain gangs were groups of convicts forced to labor at tasks such as road construction, ditch digging, or farming while chained together. Some chain gangs toiled at work sites near the prison, while others were housed in transportable jails such as railroad cars or trucks. The improvements they made to public roadways had significant impact on rural areas, allowing planters to more quickly and more easily transport their crops to market. Chain gangs minimized the cost of guarding prisoners, but exposed prisoners to painful ulcers and dangerous infections from the heavy shackles around their ankles. Chain gangs eventually gave way to work gangs — groups of prisoners who worked off-site and under guard, but not in chains. Chain Gangs In the early s, dramatic stories of the abuse and wretched conditions of convict laborers began to be publicized through trials and newspaper accounts.