The practice of using prison chain gangs continues to make a comeback. Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio has used chain gangs for years, now a Florida sheriff is doing it too.
Here locally, Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia uses inmates to clean bayous and highways, but without the striped suits and shackles.
“I don't know about putting the shackles on them, because I don't want to restrain them from doing more work,” Garcia tells KTRH News.
As for the striped jump suits, Garcia says he doesn't want to waste taxpayer money when the county's standard prison “tuxedo” works just as well.
Some have argued chain gangs are inhumane. Congressman Ted Poe, a former judge, disagrees. Poe was known for unorthodox sentences such as forcing criminals to wear sandwich boards explaining their crime.
“The bleeding hearts don't believe in punishment at all,” Poe told KTRH's Matt Patrick. “They want them to have a little therapy, watch ESPN, lift weights, and not work.”
Both say chain gangs not only save taxpayer dollars, they send a clear message to would-be criminals.
“I think the community is owed because the inmate violated the trust of the public,” says Garcia. “And I think it sends an important message to kids.”
Garcia says Harris County's program is voluntary, and only allows low-risk offenders to join.