Raleigh N.C. – Representative Hall has filed House Bill 549 Reinstate Inmate Litter Crews. If signed into law, this bill would reinstate the previously defunded program that paid inmates from the N.C. Department of Corrections to pick up trash along highways.
North Carolina has recently seen a substantial uptick in litter on our roads. After a change of law in 2018, NCDOT discontinued the longstanding inmate litter cleanup program and repurposed those funds to pay litter cleanup contractors. Governor Cooper’s shutdown of the state, along with NCDOT’s financial problems, have resulted in large amounts of trash buildup on our highways and roads. Sadly, while many community cleanup groups have been organized to address the problem, the roadways are filling up with trash at a much faster rate than volunteers are able to dispose of it.
House Bill 549 is not the only legislation that has been introduced to solve the issue. House Bill 100 The Highway Cleanup Act of 2021 was filed earlier this year. That bill would increase civil fines relating to littering and appropriate funds for NCDOT to put towards certain litter cleanup and awareness programs.
A number of counties and their officials have made requests to the Governor for the return of the inmate litter cleanup program. So far, NCDOT and the administration have not made it a priority to support these requests.
However, some sheriff’s offices across the state have moved to revitalize the program in their jurisdictions, albeit at their own expense. Unfortunately, these agencies will not be able to shoulder the responsibility on their own in the long term.
It is clear that North Carolina needs some additional litter cleanup options. Inmates are paid for their work, and their working hours can be spent to reduce their incarceration time. The money that would be appropriated to fund the program should be considered as an investment in North Carolina. Dirty roads are a danger to the environment, and unappealing to visitors. Clean roadways allow visitors and residents to appreciate the beauty of our state, uninterrupted by unsightly litter.