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Hawkins sheriff's plan will put inmates on road picking up litter

Jeff Bobo • Feb 8, 2017 at 11:19 AM

ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County motorists will soon be seeing inmates again picking up trash as part of a new program approved last week by Sheriff Ronnie Lawson and the County Commission’s Solid Waste Committee.

On Friday, the committee asked Lawson if it would be possible for an inmate work crew to begin picking up litter on county highways full time.

Lawson currently has two felony work crews under armed guard performing heavy maintenance work full time and another felony inmate crew working inside the Justice Center full time.

He told the committee those crews are too valuable to the community and would be greatly missed if one was diverted for litter pickup.

For example, one is performing renovations this week at the Rescue Squad facility in Rogersville, and the other is pouring concrete at the Carters Valley Convenience Center.

However, state law permits the sheriff to appoint a non-law-enforcement representative to supervise non-violent misdemeanor inmates on outside work crews.

That representative is required to complete a 40-hour Tennessee Correctional Institute (TCI) course on managing inmate labor.

Lawson told the Solid Waste Committee Friday he has appointed solid waste director Charlie Freeman as his representative.

Freeman and one of his staff members will receive the TCI training and be designated to deliver up to 12 approved misdemeanor inmates from the Hawkins County Jail to the county recycling center on weekdays.

From there, a crew of six will work at the recycling center, and a crew of six will conduct litter pickup on county highways.

Lawson said Sessions Judge J.Todd Ross has agreed to credit inmates two days for every day worked.

The inmates will go through a screening process before they are allowed to participate.

“(As of Friday) I’ve got 55 male and 24 female sentenced misdemeanor inmates, but I’m not going to put just anybody out there just to get a body out there,” Lawson said. “It’s going to have to be somebody who is very low-security and some of your good old boys.”

County Mayor Melville Bailey said he will acquire a van to transport the inmates, and the designees who drive it will be required to have a CDL.

Bailey noted that state law requires the County Commission to appoint a four-member Workhouse Committee outside of the Solid Waste Committee to oversee the program.

Solid Waste Committee Chairman Mark Linkous said he’d like to see at least one member of the Solid Waste Committee appointed to the Workhouse Committee.

“It will take a few weeks to get this started, but I can see a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel,” Lawson told the committee. “I’d rather have them out here working as laying up there in the bed.

“I want to see our county cleaned up too. The taxpayers and the people need to understand it isn’t going to make all our trash disappear. It’s going to be an ongoing effort.”

Inmate workers won’t be permitted to pick up trash on state highways such as 11-W and Carters Valley Road.

Freeman told the committee he uses people sentenced to community service for picking up trash on 11-W, but he hasn’t had many lately.

Linkous said he will schedule a meeting with Ross and probation director Danny Henry to discuss the possibility of allocating more community service manpower toward litter pickup as well.                                                            

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