Roadside trash detail returns to Blount County

Blount County Correctional Facility inmates pick up trash along County Highway 9 in Hayden on Friday.

Friday was Charlie Barnett's first day on the job doing roadside trash detail. It was the start of him being able to spend some time outside the walls of the Blount County Correctional Facility and take in the crisp autumn air, something that can be missed while in confinement.

"When you are in there and then you get a chance to be out here, you just think of why did I mess up?" Barnett said. "I know that when I get out, I am not going to mess up anymore."

Before Friday, Barnett said to help make his time go by easier, he thinks of his family. Friday, he has a new way to spend his time: inmate trash detail. The Blount County Commission saw a need and desire to make the county even more picturesque, and the Blount County Sheriff's Office came forward with bringing back the roadside trash detail, which went away about 10 years ago due to funding.

Recently, the commission provided the sheriff's office a $20,000 this budget year, so they could pay corrections officers and deputies overtime who run the trash detail program. Sheriff-elect Mark Moon said they will have one to two corrections officers take three inmates Monday through Saturday out to roads that need cleaning. County Administrator John Bullard said the county does not have a paid roadside trash pickup service. He said the goal is to get roads that can be consistently kept clean. He added that this service frees up crews whose purpose is to work on roads.

"One of the primary calls that our engineering and road department gets about roads is the trash," Bullard said. " In a county as beautiful as Blount County, people still throw trash out, whether it is intentional or unintentional. There is a tremendous need to clean it up. We are really grateful for the sheriff's office for coming up with this plan."

Moon said in the eight days they have been doing the program, inmates have picked up more than 150 bags of trash.

"We want to help them make the corrections in their lives that will keep them out of our custody," Moon said. "We really do care about people here. It is not just one of those things where we throw them away and forget about them. I want to see change in people's lives. I want to see change in people's hearts. I would like for people to understand how important it is to be a contributor to our society and to be able to do great things and stay away from our facility."

Bullard added that crews will work with the $20,000 that was allocated this budget year, and once those funds run out, the commission will determine how much to allocate to the program the next year.

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