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pls. help on this sentence Options
QP
Posted: Monday, January 21, 2019 7:11:00 AM
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Hi friends,

Could please help to explain the sentence in bold:-

Oh don't you know
That's the sound of the men Workin' on the chain gang

Oh don't you know
That's the sound of the men
Workin' on the chain gang

All day long they work so hard
'Til the sun's comin' down
Workin' on the highways and byways
And wearin' a frown
I hear them moanin' their lives away
Then you hear somebody say

Dose it mean 'soldiers working with the a group of convicts chained together while working outside the prison' ?

Thank you
QP
Romany
Posted: Monday, January 21, 2019 7:16:07 AM
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Yes, a chain-gang is a group of prisoners who are (or used to be?) chained together at the ankle, and who are taken out of the prison to do manual labour in the USA. There are one or two prison guards (not soldiers)with them to make sure none of them try to run away.
Jyrkkä Jätkä
Posted: Monday, January 21, 2019 7:40:27 AM

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Yes, chained prisoners doing hard work outside. The sound of the men means they are singing some bluish song while working; wearing a frown is how their faces look - not very happy.


In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.
ozok
Posted: Monday, January 21, 2019 11:25:28 AM
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Not to be forgotten:

Slaves suffered the same abuse.




just sayin'
Parpar1836
Posted: Wednesday, January 23, 2019 2:26:31 PM
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Groups of slaves chained together were known as coffles.

The chain gangs sang together because it also helped keep them working in rhythm. If they were fixing railroad tracks (a task known as the gandy dance), they would have to work in a coordinated fashion, and the song helped them stay synchronized.
RuthP
Posted: Wednesday, January 23, 2019 3:22:56 PM

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The distinction between a coffle and a chain gang is not as firm as may be thought. Forced physical labor by those in prison is a feature of the South (southern U.S. states, historically members of the Confederate rebellion) even today. Following the Civil War, many laws were instituted which vastly increased the likelihood of imprisonment of non-whites (blacks). These men and sometimes women, though not in the same institution, were then used either for state labor or "rented" (long term, effectively sold) to (white-owned) businesses or (white) farmers. It was, and may be argued still is, a de facto extension of slavery.

For a reasonably current (1997) argument on this see this link: California Law Revue: 8th amendment and chain gangs

The term "gandy dance" or "gandy dancer" is (early) 20th century. It does apply to the use of song to keep rhythm, but the process predates the term. Keeping rhythm was extremely important when laying rails: failure to do so could result in the loss of a foot (and not uncommonly subsequent loss of life) were a rail to fall on the foot.

Keeping rhythm with song is far older. Sea chanteys kept rhythm for tasks from raising and lowering sails to raising anchor on sailing ships. I don't doubt oarsmen did the same on their biremes and triremes.
Romany
Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2019 5:34:22 AM
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African people have always sung as they worked, it would seem. To this day they chant or sing when doing manual labour to keep the rythym. But then again African people sing (and dance) a lot anyway - anyone ever seen the "Gumboot Dance"? A result of tribal dances brought into the cities by urban workers?

My gardener even used to sing/chant when doing garden chores - if we were sharing them, he'd teach me to join in - and he was a Uni student, not a rural tribesperson!
Parpar1836
Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2019 10:30:22 AM
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According to Dickens's Great Expectations, blacksmiths had specific chanteys too, which helped them stay synchronized, an absolute necessity if two or more were working on a single item.
FounDit
Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2019 1:54:43 PM

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Modern chain gangs are nothing like the old South style. The people who are part of them are not slaves, have not been either bought or sold, and are treated well, quite often volunteering for the chain gang.

From https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/05/02/brevard-county-sheriff-chain-gang/2130335/

Quote:

“First-year Sheriff Wayne Ivey says … that his chain gangs are not shackled to one another and each man is a volunteer. It's not a forced assignment. And it doesn't include inmates who are a danger to the community.

Controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona's Maricopa County, known for his tough law-and-order stance, has had male chain gangs since 1995, female chain gangs since 1996 and chain gangs for juveniles convicted as adults since 2004. Those inmates, who work eight hours a day six days a week, also are volunteers who want to get outside even if it means weeding, clearing brush or picking up litter in the hot sun.”

“Prisons in several states including Arizona and Iowa also have shackled inmate crews that do landscaping or cleanup outside prison grounds.

A few sheriff's departments have tried and abandoned the idea, including Johnson County, Ind., which had too small a staff to keep up with the program's popularity.
[Emphasis mine]

Under state law, only inmates convicted of a crime can participate on a work detail. They must qualify for "trustee" status, meaning their criminal history is neither extensive nor violent and they have demonstrated good behavior in jail.

Thirty-five men volunteered for the eight positions on the chain gang.
[Hardly something “slaves” would do. FD]

"Once they're sentenced, we're allowed to work them X number of hours per day," Ivey said, adding that he chose volunteers for the chain gang because he wanted to make sure all inmates on the detail bought into its mission of being an anti-crime public relations campaign.

The sheriff said all jail work details save taxpayers money because the inmates do manual labor that the county otherwise would have to pay others to do.
Some work in the jail's cafeteria. Some refurbish bicycles. Some train dogs in shelters. The Sheriff's Department estimates that all of the work programs provide about $10 million worth of labor each year.

The new, all-male chain gang is working in cooperation with the Brevard County Public Works Department. Lately, they've been cleaning up trash along the roads.
Ivey said the work assignment gives the convicts a chance to enjoy sunshine and fresh air.

"It's got its perks for them, as well," Ivey said.

Ivey said he wasn't aware of another chain gang in Florida. Spokeswoman Ann Howard for the Florida Department of Corrections said her department doesn't use them.
Traditional chain gangs, in which inmates are shackled together, were challenged as violating the U.S. Constitution's protection against cruel and unusual punishment in a 1996 lawsuit in Alabama, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. The U.S. Supreme Court also found it unconstitutional to shackle an inmate to a post.

In Ivey's iteration of the chain gang, inmates ankles are shackled, but inmates are not chained to one another.

"It's hard to say whether a modified chain gang in which prisoners are individually chained for security purposes would pass constitutional muster," the ACLU of Florida's Johnson said.

Ivey said the county had no additional costs to put the program in place compared to the cost of unchained work crews. The inmates wear black and white striped uniforms, which differ from clothing worn by other inmates on work crews.
Ivey said he chose the outfits because they're consistent with a common, historical image of inmates on chain gangs.

"You have the old scared straight program," Ivey said. "To some degree, this is part of that."

Ivey said the inmates were receptive to the idea when he presented it.
"Before I even got through talking about the program, I had people volunteering," he said.
[Emphasis FD]

Jeffrey Alan Rhoades volunteered. He was arrested for stealing his aunt's purse in July 2012. He was convicted and sentenced to probation but tested positive for drugs in December and was sentenced to serve 270 days in jail.

"We're just here today to clean up the park, help out, you know, make sure everything's clean for the community and set an example for little kids," he said recently, standing in the parking lot at the Pineda Causeway Boat Ramp, wearing an orange hat and a fluorescent green vest over his black and white stripes.
He and seven other men walked around the park, picking bits of plastic from the vegetation near the river.

Spirits seemed high. Some men smiled as they worked. Sometimes, the men sang in call-and-response chorus:

We are the chain gang,
the mighty Ivey chain gang.


Of course, the best way to avoid finding oneself on a chain gang is to behave.






We should look to the past to learn from it, not destroy our future because of it — FounDit
RuthP
Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2019 4:55:04 PM

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1) Suggest you read the 1997 article to which I linked.
2) You are describing prison jobs, not chain gangs. Calling service dog training or bicycle repair a chain gang does not make it so: off topic; not applicable.
3) Arpaio is not a reliable or believable source of information. Were I less charitable (but I am, so I shall not continue).
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Friday, January 25, 2019 3:08:56 AM

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FounDit wrote:
“Prisons in several states including Arizona and Iowa also have shackled inmate crews that do landscaping or cleanup outside prison grounds.
. . .
Thirty-five men volunteered for the eight positions on the chain gang. [Hardly something “slaves” would do. FD]
. . .
Spirits seemed high. Some men smiled as they worked. Sometimes, the men sang in call-and-response chorus

As Ruth says, not the same as the original traditional "chain-gang-as-punishment", but I feel it's sequitur to the subject of what the song is expressing. The dog-training, canteen work and bicycle repair jobs are separate - there's a distinction between internal work details and the shackled external work.

In my opinion (having been in the situation of enforced idleness), work of this sort is more humane than absolutely nothing to do.
TV, internet entertainment, "all the comforts of home" at no cost - no - that's a reward for criminality.
Locked in a cell with nothing - that's "strange and unusual punishment" or whatever the phrase is currently.

Some productive work which benefits the community (not increasing the profits of some mercenary paramilitary company running the prisons) helps offset the costs of imprisonment AND helps in rehabilitation (and, I would be certain, reduces recidivism).

Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
FounDit
Posted: Friday, January 25, 2019 12:16:00 PM

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Yes, the whole point of my post was to highlight the distinction between the chain gangs of the old South (which I did, indeed, read, and which heavily focused on slavery in RuthP's post) and modern ones.

And yes, there is a difference between prison jobs and chain gangs, and between the chain gangs of slaves of the old South and today's. Again, the very point I was making, so it's very applicable.

As for Sheriff Arpaio, he is an eminently reliable source of information since he has years of extensive experience with such work details.




We should look to the past to learn from it, not destroy our future because of it — FounDit
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