12/12/2007

DUI inmates don pink in Ariz. chain gang

By Amanda Lee Myers
Associated Press Writer

PHOENIX, Ariz. — A sheriff known for housing inmates in old military tents has a new idea - a chain gang of drunken driving convicts wearing pink shirts and performing burials of people who died of alcohol abuse.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said he wants the chain gang to act as a deterrent to potential drunken drivers. He has already used the color pink on inmates - he issued them pink underwear.

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

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

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

"It's good to get out of the tents and be in the public," the 30-year-old Glendale resident said. "Hopefully it keeps someone from drinking and driving."

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

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

Arizona had the sixth-highest number of alcohol-related fatalities in the nation last year at 585, up 15 percent from the previous year, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration records.

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

The DUI chain gang will perform burials Thursday at an indigent cemetery that is the final resting place for many homeless alcoholics.

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