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Thursday, December 27, 2007

New DUI Chain Gang Performs Burials of Alcohol Victims

Arizona Inmates Wear Pink Shirts During Rites

From a sheriff known for housing inmates in old military tents comes this new idea: a chain gang of drunken driving inmates, wearing pink shirts, performing burials of people who died of alcohol abuse.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio wants the chain gang to act as a deterrent to potential drunken drivers. Previously, he used the color pink on inmates - by issuing them pink underwear.

Arpaio said. "Maybe this will warn people: knock it off, don't drink and drive. You'll end up in pink underwear on the chain gang."

Recently, 15 county jail inmates were busy cleaning a bustling east city street while wearing shirts which say "Sheriff D.U.I. Chain Gang" on the back, and "Clean(ing) and Sober" on the front.

Inmate Michael McDaniel volunteered for the chain gang to get out of the jail tents. He is serving a four-month sentence for aggravated DUI and driving on a suspended license.

McDaniel said, "It's good to get out of the tents and be in the public. Hopefully it keeps someone from drinking and driving."

McDaniel also said he found his attire "a little embarrassing."

"I don't like the color pink,” he said. “But I can live with it."

Last year, Arizona had the sixth-highest number of alcohol-related fatalities in the nation at 585. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration records, that’s an increase of 15 percent from the previous year.

Last summer, the state Legislature passed one of the toughest DUI laws in the country. It mandates ignition-interlock devices for first-time offenders, greater fines and a minimum of 45 days in jail for some DUI convictions.

Recently, the DUI chain gang performed burials at an indigent cemetery that, for many homeless alcoholics, is the final resting place.

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