A chain gang requires fewer guards. It’s more of a practical thing to do really. Especially when the economy is hurting and the state needs the labor. Since the state is housing, feeding, doctoring, and lawyering these criminals then they may as well do some work to ‘give back to the community’.
Perhaps they could even make it voluntary and give the inmates one day credit on their sentences for every day worked.
Inmates jump at the chance to get on a crew just to get out of the cage once in a while.
Well in large numbers it would certainly drive wages down a bit more in areas that have prisons.
a push broom and hand truck with a garbage can would be handy and a lot cheaper than a street sweeping machine.