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Inmates Return to Roadside Litter Duty

Posted February 27, 2008
Updated February 28, 2008

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— The state Transportation and Correction departments on Wednesday kicked off a new pilot program aimed at improving safety during litter removal along Wake County’s highways.

In July, the Department of Correction pulled its roadside crews after inmate Charles Wilson was killed while picking up garbage along Interstate 40, near Lake Wheeler Road.

Since then, litter along the highways has piled up.

"It doesn't look good for North Carolina at all,” motorist Dana Coughley said.

“There are legal matters that had to be addressed too, and that takes time to work through,” DOT Spokesman Ernie Seneca explained when asked why it has taken so long to restart the inmate litter crews.

Under the new program, inmate labor crews will be organized into larger groups and assigned over longer stretches of highway to help ensure safety.

“The goal is to have better efficiency, better safety for the inmates (and) our workers, plus the traveling public,” Seneca said.

Thirty-two inmates and as many as eight correctional officers will be divided into crews. They will pick up littler along I-40, Interstate 540, Interstate 440, U.S. Highway 1/64 and the U.S. Highway 64/264 Bypass four days a week.

“Roadside litter remains a tremendous challenge for North Carolina, and the efforts of crews from both NCDOT and NCDOC play a key role in keeping our highways clean and safe,” Transportation Secretary Lyndo Tippett said.

The DOT is also closing road shoulders and using electronic highway signs to warn approaching motorists of inmate work. If the pilot program works in Wake County, DOT officials said it will be launched in other counties.

Each year, the DOT spends more than $12 million on inmate labor for litter removal. The DOT also relies on the efforts of nearly 6,000 Adopt-a-Highway volunteers.

Last year, litter removal costs totaled $16.5 million throughout the state.


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  • marathonk Feb 28, 2008

    It is quite apparent that it's a losing battle to clean up after the offenders. There needs to be a comprehensive effort for litter control. Using inmates to clean up highways is a good start. Litter tends to attract more litter. In addition, we need a major marketing campaign to both educate and shame litters. I just got back from skiing in California. On the chairlift support poles at Alpine Meadows there were placards that informed passengers about the amount of time it took various products to degraded. This might be enough for those who just need some education to become conscientious. Education is the key for children. Start off at a young age. I believe there is a strong anti-litter compoFor the habitual offenders, I think it necessary to shame them. It's been a long time since many people have felt bad about their actions. Shame them about how much it costs them because there is certainly an economic cost of litter. Shame them by saying it's Anti-American to litter.

  • Weetie Feb 28, 2008

    it's about time...

  • cm64 Feb 28, 2008

    The people who are littering are no better than the inmates. The inmates aren't the ones littering. They were locked up, remember?

    Focus your efforts on stopping these "trash criminals" and then you won't have to worry about spending cleanup money on inmates.

  • wildervb Feb 28, 2008

    You are correct, jowilker, a deposit law won't solve all the litter problems but it will solve part of it. I have worked on adopt a highway pickups, and bottles and cans are a large part of the litter problem.

    The point is, you aren't going to solve this problem by just having inmates pick up garbage. You need multiple approaches, continue with the inmates, require a deposit, strickly enforce littering laws and have cities and counties do more garbage pickup. You have to make the statement that you are serious about the issue, once the roads start looking cleaner, people will be less apt to litter in the first place.

    People also need to take some personal responsibility and pride in the area they live and work in. I actually do pick up litter when I walk, I encourage my kids to do so also.

  • Lissa13082 Feb 28, 2008

    hdonthefarm - I agree with you, inmates should NOT recieve better treatment than law abiding taxpayers, yet they do. It makes me sick to think about it! They get SO much better treatment than most of us do living on the outside! You'd be surprised as to exactly what goes on!

  • Lissa13082 Feb 28, 2008

    doogaad - yes, it's $5 a day for inmates. And about the green clothed inmates serving a few months for minor misdemenors, that's what I used to think to... Oh how wrong I was! They are the inmates that are closer to getting out, but you'd be amazed at the crimes they've committed. They are everything from tax fraud all the way up to murder. There was one that was within months of getting out after serving 8 of a 10 year sentence for murder.... I was shocked when I learned that!

  • jowilker Feb 28, 2008

    OK, So deposits might return some items for change, but the road sides are cluttered with items other than ones that might carry a deposit.

    People that litter don't care about a 10 cent deposit.

  • PC is for Losers Feb 28, 2008

    wildervb you have it right. I just don't understand why we don't hire litter police to hand out high dollar tickets. Idiots leave trash in the back of their pickups and it flies right out, trash streams out of WM and other trash trucks, and ignorant people lower their window and let fly. Someone, somewhere has no guts to raise fines and enforce. If we can set a speed trap can we not purposely look for litterers? With the amount of trash around it shouldn't be that hard to catch a few. That salary would be paid for in no time. Seems easy to me...it may not be that fun for a State Trooper or whatever, but who cares.

    I mean really, is no one in charge aware of the problem or is someone from one of these state departments against a fix such as this?

  • RainierBeer Feb 28, 2008

    I think the inmates should get a pay cut like some of us have experienced, we who actually try to contribute to society instead of sponging...

  • wildervb Feb 28, 2008

    If you want to get serious about reducing can and bottle litter put a deposit on both. It works great in other states that do this.