For the women of American's only all-female chain gang, the day starts early at 6am. After being padlocked together at the ankles of their heavy-duty work boots and dressed in the familiar striped uniform, the female inmates are put on a bus at Estrella Jail in Phoenix, Arizona and taken off to their day's hard labor.
Tasks include weeding along the highways in Maricopa County or burying unclaimed bodies at White Tanks Cemetery.
The chain gang was abandoned across the U.S. in the 1950s but reintroduced in Arizona in 1995 by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, America's self-proclaimed toughest man in law enforcement.
He has been accused by the Justice Department of racially profiling Latinos and denying prisoners basic human rights by serving them rotten food and withholding drinking water.
Female prisoners must volunteer for the chain gang and many do so to break up the grinding routine of jail life. It also gets them out of lock-down, where four prisoners are kept in cells eight by 12 sq ft for 23 hours a day.
The chain gang is mainly made up of women in prison for DUI offenses and after a month of solid work, they get to move out of the cells and sleep in the comparatively better conditions of military tents next to jail's main building.
Life in chains: Members of America's only all-female chain gang march to a bus that will transport them to their worksite outside Estrella Jail in Phoenix, Arizona
Unwanted task: The chain gang help bury an unclaimed body at White Tanks Cemetery, an indigent burial site in the desert 40 miles west of Phoenix
Pride in appearance: The women clean the dust off their heavy-duty work boots after a day of working in the desert of Maricopa County
Blazing sun: They work temperatures which can hit 140F , hacking at weeds at Bartlett Lake, 100 km north of Phoenix
Morbid task: The chain gang, in their standard striped shirts and pants, prepares to bury unclaimed bodies at White Tanks Cemetery
Home sweet home: Inmates Kelly DeGrose (L), Mickey Haas (C), and Leann Cracke (R) climb back into their bunk beds after a day's hard labor
Well-earned rest: Inmates Erica Martinez (L) and Jennifer Thomas (R) climb back into their lock-down cells after a day working outdoors
Hard lessons: Kelly DeGrose (C), along with other inmates, listens to a detention officer lecture them
Envious: Inmates in a holding pen watch members of America's only all-female chain gang walk past them on their way to a day of labor
No escape: The chain gang lines up for work at 6am, seven days a week
Outside looking in: The women on the bus en route to White Tanks Cemetery to help bury the unclaimed dead outside Estrella Jail
Last Rites: A pastor reads a short sermon as the women stand quietly around the stranger that it has become their job to bury at White Tanks Cemetery
Labor day: The all-female chain gang walks past inmates in a holding pen on their way to work which they all volunteer for
They board a bus en route to a highway roadside where they will spend several hours pulling weeds
Feeling the heat: The women work in 40 degree Celsius heat, hacking at weeds at Bartlett Lake
Inmate Julie Harper (C) marches with members of America's only all-female chain gang early in the morning at Estrella Jail
The chain gang line up for work early in the morning at Estrella Jail
Inmates Alma Madrigal (L) and Jennifer Thomas (R) help Lisa McCorvey (C) roll up her sleeves before a day's work
Members of America's only all-female chain gang prepare for several hours of labor in 40 degree Celsius heat, cleaning up at Bartlett Lake
Saturday, February 02, 2013
4 responses to "America's only female chain gang: The women who pull weeds and bury unclaimed bodies in Arizona desert to avoid 23 hours of lock-down in country's 'toughest jail' "
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There is a ton of highway clean up and other menial task in Arizona and elsewhere that should be performed by prisoners. The state shouldn't have to pay people to do a job while inmates remain in their cells do nothing but hardening as criminals. They can cut fire breaks in the forests, remove deadfall trees and limbs, police trash along the highways. Joe Arpaio is a jerk, but public work should be a part of reform programs.