Calera inmates to pick up trash

Published 2:44 pm Thursday, July 10, 2008

By AMY GORDON / Staff Writer

Prison inmates from the city of Calera will soon do their part to beautify the city by picking up the trash that plagues the city’s highways, said Calera Police Chief Sean Lemley.

The idea came along because city officials were getting repeated complaints about the unsightly trash, he said.

“We have people who are serving time for the city, and we decided to put them to work,” he said.

Lemley said citizens that complain about the trash often don’t understand that when the trash is along a state-run highway, such as Highway 31, it’s not the city’s responsibility to clean it up.

Rather, city workers need to focus on cleaning city-run highways, and the inmate plan allows them to do just that.

“It puts a huge burden on city crews to clean up state roadways,” Lemley said. “It’s not the city’s responsibility.”

Because inmates on work release are unpaid, they can help clean up the state roadways without diverting resources from the city’s roadways, he said.

Also, using inmates will help Calera save money.

“Now, instead of having three, four, five city crew members getting paid minimum wage to walk up and down the highways, we can use inmates,” Lemley said. “It should help save the city some money.”

No sex offenders or violent criminals will be allowed on work release, he said.

Inmates will be highly visible to traffic, with bright vests, caution lights and signs.

Inmates could begin work as early as Monday, Lemley said. They are expected to work an eight-hour day, and may be on trash duty as many as two or three days a week, depending on the availability of personnel and inmates.

“Most of the inmates want to get out of the cell block. It’s a treat for them to get out,” he said.

The workers will be spread all over the city, wherever there seems to be a trash problem.

“We’re not going to have them fixated in one area,” Lemley said. “Public works will let me know if we notice areas that are cluttered up.