Pub. date: 2009 | Online Pub. Date: June 02, 2009 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412971928 | Print ISBN: 9781412950855 | Online ISBN: 9781412971928 | Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Douglas J. Dallier & Lindsey Bergeron & Courtney A. Waid
This entry examines the history of chain gangs in the United States. The use of chain gangs in America is analyzed against a backdrop of changing social and economic conditions. The eventual disdain for and reemergence of this form of punishment are also briefly addressed. Chain gangs as an American penal institution can be traced back to the late 19th century and are borne of ideas not new in the history of practices related to punishment. As early as 1697, convicts were transported from the British Isles to serve in the American colonies as slaves and indentured servants. Convict labor was also used in 1718 to clear the land that would eventually become the city of New Orleans. In 1786, Pennsylvania law declared convicts should “publicly and disgracefully labor” and were put to work maintaining the streets of Philadelphia. Despite this history, the use of chain gangs did not become ...