Thursday, February 19, 2009
For Immediate Release
February 19, 2009
INMATE ROAD CREW MAKES 25 TON DIFFERENCE
In four short months, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office Inmate Road Crew collected more than 25 tons (roughly 50,000 pounds) of trash and debris off the sides of roads across Clay County. Sheriff Rick Beseler gave the orders for this program to be rejuvenated in late 2008 and, under constant supervision, the inmates hit the streets – and ditches – and county right-of-ways, allowing paid county employees time to focus on other duties and projects. To date, the non-violent offenders approved for this volunteer duty logged more than 3,500 manpower hours cleaning up what Clay County residents threw out. Trailer after trailer of trash and tires were hauled to the Rosemary landfill in Green Cove Springs since the program’s onset.
“This is hard, dirty work being done by these inmates at no expense to county taxpayers”, said Sheriff Rick Beseler. “There are areas across the county that are now cleaner and safer as a result”, he said. Already, seventy-seven different Clay County roads have been cleaned covering a total of 172 miles. All collection is done by hand and on foot by these crews.
When a crew is on duty, they are hard to miss. The orange and white striped jump suits stand out to passing motorists and residents, some who pull over to ask what the project is about. “When I tell residents that the inmates are cleaning up the litter from problem areas, the response is always positive”, said Sgt. Eddie Eisenhauer, the supervisor overseeing the crews. And oddly enough, the inmates like it as well. “Most of these men are just glad to be working outside in the fresh air”, Eisenhauer said. “When they were told that 50,000 pounds was our goal by February, they took it as a challenge and worked even harder”, he said.
There is more to be found on Clay County’s roadsides than mere household trash. A recent inventory of collected items revealed some surprises: credit cards, keys, cell phones, obscene materials, money, alcohol, narcotics, knifes. All of these items were documented as found property and submitted into evidence by the supervisor. When appropriate, found items will be returned if owners are identified. The inmate work crew members even rescued an abandoned kitten and an abused dog while on shift.
The crews have also become a resource for the county’s two Environmental Crimes detectives. Following the conclusion of a recent investigation into illegal trash dumping in Keystone Heights, the detectives called in the crew to clean up the site, a job that county employees would have been paid to do if not for the availability of an inmate work crew. “In the long run, this is a win-win effort for the agency and county,” Sheriff Beseler said. “In tough economic times, I think citizens want to see government getting back to basics, doing everything possible to cut costs while keeping things running”, he said. “But, it is unfortunate some people litter this much”, Beseler added. “We could use this inmate labor in other ways to reduce costs if we didn't have to clean up after litterbugs.”
The inmates continue their work now with 100,000 pounds of trash as the goal in mind. Look for the orange and white stripes – and less trash - on a roadside near you soon.