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Chain gang as a budget tool?
Published September 8, 2007
TALLAHASSEE - The state could save millions of dollars by housing low-security inmates in tents, slapping them in leg irons and putting them to work maintaining roads, Florida's prisons chief said Friday.
Corrections Secretary James McDonough also offered to take a 10 percent pay cut - more than $11,000 - as part of his recommendations for helping the state trim its budget.
McDonough believes the tents and road work would save about $43-million.
"It would actually put them on the streets, the ones that are eligible, but they would go onto I-75 and I-10 as part of a work program in striped uniforms - a chain gang for lack of a better term," said department spokesman Robby Cunningham.
It's the kind of program that helped Gov. Charlie Crist earn the nickname "Chain Gang Charlie" when he served in the Florida Senate. Crist then had sponsored legislation to revive chain gangs.
McDonough's proposal is aimed at "year-and-day" inmates who ordinarily would be in county jails. Florida law, though, requires sentences of more than a year to be served in state prisons.
Judges have been giving nonviolent offenders such sentences to keep them out of overcrowded county jails, McDonough said.