Ugly Prison Chain Gangs
Return To American Scene
By James Donahue
It is interesting how
predictions by psychic Aaron C. Donahue begin to make news headlines within days after he mentions them on his Internet radio
Not long ago Donahue
spoke about America’s
overflowing prison population, criticizing the nation’s leadership over the past decades for investing in prisons instead
of universities and thus destroying the future of America’s
The prisons are the result
of a national drug war that has only one purpose . . . to block a natural quest to achieve an altered state of consciousness.
Reaching that state, or opening the third eye, even if for only a brief time, allows us to catch a glimpse of the reality
that exists beyond our veiled existence.
The new-found benefit
from having so many people in prison will be to generate a veiled form of slave labor for industry, Donahue warned. He said
he foresees thousands of young men and women in prisons being utilized for public service and even to manufacture products
for world distribution and sale.
Indeed, the concept of
using jailed inmates for public service work is not new. It has been around for a very long time. The old chain gangs of men
in white and black striped prison uniforms, all working at the end of a ball
and chain and clearing brush along public roadways, digging trenches and swinging sledge hammers to break up rocks, dates
back to an earlier and dark time in American history.
Watching over these gangs
of men engaged in brutal, heavy labor, were armed uniformed guards.
Not only was the work
brutal, the position of being forced to labor along open highways, wearing prison garb and bound by leg irons was a form of
public whipping. There was nothing pleasant or socially constructive about the chain gangs.
A few years ago, while
working as a bureau reporter and covering county government in a rural area of Michigan,
an enterprising social worker in the District Court presented a “new and creative plan” to the Board of County
Commissioners for easing a problem of an overcrowded county jail.
Jim Merriman suggested
establishing a jail work force, with armed guards, to allow convicted felons to work off jail time through public service
work. His suggestion was to use a jail work force to clean brush along county roads, clean and maintain cemeteries, county
and township parks and other public facilities.
The commissioners bought
the plan. A special prison bus was purchased and a deputy hired just to run the program and stand guard over his pack of workers.
The prisoners got a lot of public work done. Township buildings got painted. Parks were cleaned and beaches raked free of
broken glass and beer cans. Cemeteries were mowed.
Soon other counties were
adopting the program. Merriman was invited to travel all over the state, talking about his wonderful work program and how
it was not only saving the cost of housing prisoners, it was providing free labor for a lot of towns and townships. Merriman
was lauded for coming up with such a wonderful idea.
The judges in both the
District and Circuit courts found innovative new ways of utilizing the county work program as part of the sentencing of prisoners,
not only for felony crimes, but for misdemeanors. Some sentences involved only a few days on the work bus with no time spent
The striped prison outfits
weren’t being worn, and nobody was in chains, but the prison work gangs were clearly visible, with armed guards standing
by, and folks driving past always knew what they were.
After I retired from
that bureau job, my wife and I lived for a while in Phoenix, Arizona. I was shocked to read about Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the man known for making his jail
inmates wear pink underwear, who was bringing back the old prison chain gang. He actually put his inmates to work on chains
along public roads, just like the bad old days.
It didn’t take
long for Jim Merriman’s idea to spread from Michigan to Arizona and evolve to this, I thought.
This week I read a story
about a chain gang at work near Cincinnati, Ohio.
There were pictures of the workers, all dressed in black and white stripped prison uniforms. They were chained together in
groups of five while they worked.
The story said the prisoners
liked the program because it gave them a chance to get out of the jail and enjoy fresh air and sunlight. Somehow I have my
doubts that the inmates really liked it that much. But then, there are a lot of zombies out there. They might really believe
working on a humiliating chain gang is good for them.
I wonder how long it
will take before these inmates start getting used by big industry.