During the early 1900s in Florida, prisoners were often leased to corporations for road work, timber harvesting and turpentining. Historians say the men were often chained together (photo below) and transported to work sites using convict cage wagons like this one on display at the Barberville Pioneer Settlement in Volusia County.
The local sheriff would be in league with owners of his county’s largest lumber or turpentine companies who would pay the defendants’ court fines, get them released from jail, and force them to pay off the fines by working in squalid, barbarous conditions in rural, isolated camps. The system was known as penal servitude and peonage, and reports gradually filtering out of the Florida camps to a New York World newspaper reporter of prisoners dying after repeated and daily whippings at the camps forced the legislature to investigate.
According to documentation, the cage was used to transport convicts from camp to work on the road between DeLand and Daytona.
The leasing program was abolished in Florida in 1923 following the death of Martin Talbert, an inmate killed in a turpentine camp as a result of harsh physical punishment.