The New South and the New Slavery

Convict Labor in Georgia

A Spectacle of Shame

Under both the convict lease system and the chain gang system, male prisoners wore striped shirts and trousers; female prisoners wore striped dresses. In Georgia, these uniforms were sometimes called “Georgia stripes.” Dressed in these uniforms at all times, convicts were made to bear the stigma of incarceration. Prisoners were also confined by restraint devices like the ball and chain and “prisoner picks,” a contraption intended to keep prisoners from running away by limiting leg movement.

Inmates on the chain gang were transported in overcrowded cages from county to county, where they worked grading roads from sunup until sundown. Once they reached the work site, temporary convict camps called “cage camps” or “road camps” would be set up. A foremost leader in transportation cars for prisoners was Manly Jail Works in Dalton. Convict cages were used as makeshift prison cells. These accommodations packed twelve inmates into spaces of about 15 feet long by 7 feet wide. Prisoners were sometimes housed in tents called “cheap shacks.”