Jun 28, 2012
With a few exceptions, chain gangs were abandoned in the U.S. by 1955. But Arizona’s Maricopa County, which includes metropolitan Phoenix, reintroduced the practice in 1995, and today the county runs the only all-female chain gang in the country.
Women volunteer for the duty, looking to break the monotony of jail life. Most are in for minor convictions – a DUI sentence, a probation violation…
The “chain girls,” as they call themselves, gather at 6 a.m., when detention officers drive them to that day’s work site. It could be a local park to pick up trash, a highway roadside to pull weeds, or even a county cemetery to help bury the indigent.
Though summer temperatures in Phoenix can rise above 110 degrees, inmates volunteer with surprising eagerness.
“It’s worth it just to get out for a few hours,” says Mickey Haas, who is serving time for a DUI. Fellow chain girl Honi Simmons agrees, adding: “It comes with a good story. I don’t think people will ever believe I was in a chain gang.”
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