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A Brief History of the Oregon Boot



A Brief History of the Oregon Boot

Oregon Boot worn by inmate

The Oregon Boot, or Gardner Shackle as it was properly known, was patented July 3, 1866 by , then Oregon State Penitentiary Warden, J.C. Gardner.  The shackles were manufactured at the Penitentiary by prisoners. Oregon Boot unassembled
Oregon boot assembled
Each shackle consisted of a heavy iron band that locked around one ankle.  This iron band was supported by another iron ring and braces which attached to the heel of a boot.  These shackles weighed between 5 and 28 pounds apiece.
The Boot was placed on one leg only.  This kept the inmate off balance and deprived him of agility.
At the time the Oregon Boot was invented, the territorial Prison and later the Penitentiary had an enormous escape problem.  Mr. Gardner and subsequent wardens felt that the inmate population could not be adequately controlled without using the Gardner Shackle on each and every prisoner. 
When Gardner was replaced as the warden, he obtained a court order preventing the use of the shackle without payment to him.  The Oregon Legislature did authorize the payment of funds to Gardner that same year.
Wearing the shackle for extended periods of time caused extreme physical damage.  Inmates would be bedridden for weeks at a time in extreme pain.  The Gardner Shackle became known as a man-killer to the prisoners who wore them.

Shackle on bootHow shackle attaches to boot

In 1878 Superintendent Chadwick discontinued the use of the shackle on a full time basis.  Chadwick still used the shackle for disciplinary purposes. Virtually all counties and municipalities shackled their inmates when transporting them.
It isn´t known when the last time the Oregon Boot was used.  As late as 1939 a prisoner was "ironed out" in Mill City, Oregon so that he could be transported to the Penitentiary.