04/19/05 — Task for inmates: Roadside trash suggests way for offenders to give back

View Archive

Task for inmates: Roadside trash suggests way for offenders to give back

And speaking of ways for offenders to pay off their medical costs ...

Take a look along North Carolina’s highways and you will see a sign that growth has its price.

There are few major highways, and some not-so-major thoroughfares, that are not plagued by litter of all types. It is not just paper, either. Sometimes there are plastic paint containers, pieces of cars and every type of fast food container known to man. Then, there are the ever-present discarded truck tire treads that seem to be a decoration on I-95.

Every once in a while you will see a North Carolina Department of Transportation crew picking up trash, but there is a cost there, too. Road workers who are picking up trash are not fixing potholes, finishing highway extensions or otherwise making travel through North Carolina easier.

So, the question remains, who would be the logical choice for such a job? There is an available workforce right in the county’s jails and the federal prison populations. Non-violent offenders with good behavior records could handle policing the local highways with minimal supervision. Job gets done and taxpayers don’t pay for it twice. And, if along the way, a few inmates pay off their medication costs, that is just an extra bonus.

There is nothing wrong with asking an offender to contribute something to the community he has wronged. For some, the time outside, doing something important might be a source of pride.

But no matter what the final result for the inmates, the ultimate goal is to clean up the state’s highways. It doesn’t say much for North Carolina when visitors crossing the border see all sorts of trash. That is not the kind of first impression we want to give prospective residents or investors.

Here is a cheap, easy solution — and a win-win situation for a continuing money drain on local coffers.

Published in Editorials on April 19, 2005 10:33 AM