Ball and chain

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Ball and chains for both legs, Sagalunds museum, Finland

A ball and chain (also known as leg irons[1]) is a physical restraint device historically used to bind prisoners of both adolescent and adult ages.[2] Their use was prevalent in the Americas.[3] From the 17th century until as late as the mid-20th century[4] this form of punishment was often used in conjunction with other methods of confinement.

A type of shackle, the ball and chain is designed so that the weight of the iron ball at the end of the short chain restricts and limits the pace at which its wearer is able to move, making any attempt at escape much more difficult. The weight of the ball would typically be determined by the court, typically ranging from five to twenty-five pounds (2.27 - 11.34 kg).[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Ball and chain | MHNSW". Museums of History NSW. 2022-12-05. Retrieved 2023-10-30.
  2. ^ Springer, David; Roberts, Albert (2011). Juvenile Justice and Delinquency. Jones & Bartlett Learning. p. 4. ISBN 9780763760564.
  3. ^ a b U.S. Army Center of Military History (2016). "Army History: The Professional Bulletin of Army History". The Professional Bulletin of Army History (98–105).
  4. ^ "Ball and chain". Victorian Collections. Retrieved 2023-03-13.