Three inmates from the Carroll County Detention Center are spending 10 hours a day picking up trash and debris along the county's 946 miles of roads.
"I ain't never gonna litter again," said Joe Kibler, as he watched fellow inmate Eric Hahn stuff muddy paper into a trash bag while working along Crouse Mill Road near Taneytown.
The fledgling Trusty Work Program, designed in part to save tax dollars, allows selected inmates like Kibler, 22, and Hahn, 24, to leave jail to help with litter pickup.
The pair, along with Richard Saville, 29, are working with two county roads employees, forming a crew that picked up 3,100 pounds of debris in the first week of operation.
Benton Watson, chief of the county's Bureau of Roads Operations, estimated the trusties will save the county about $25,000 annually.
The program benefits the trusties, building self-esteem, responsibility, pride and solid work habits, said Lt. Mark Peregoy, a jail spokesman.
"It's another step in the rehabilitation process, preparing inmates to return to society and be productive," he said.
State and local authorities believe it is the first time inmates in Carroll have been used on road crews, but convicts have worked at the county landfill and have helped move furniture into the county government building.
About 485 inmates serving time in state Division of Corrections facilities are employed by 18 state agencies, five counties and Baltimore, said David Towers, a state prisons spokesman. They work on 97 state highway crews, helping with litter control, snow removal, carpentry, painting, repairs and landscaping, he said.
To ensure the public's safety, the Carroll trusties are carefully screened.
"The criteria is similar to that used for placing inmates on work release," Peregoy said.
Trusties must volunteer and have served a portion of their sentences for nonviolent crimes without incident, Peregoy said. Those on pretrial supervision are not eligible.
Each inmate acknowledged distaste for litter work, but agreed the job was preferable to sleeping or watching television all day at the detention center.
"At least we're outdoors in the sunshine and fresh air," said Saville.
Soon the inmates will have more than trash to pick up.
As weeds turn to brush, they will begin trim work, Watson said. On rainy days, they will move indoors at the maintenance facility in Westminster to clean out county vehicles.
The county inmates are not paid for their labor, but earn time off their sentences at the rate of one day off for each five days worked.
When Watson and Bruce Lockard, an area roads supervisor for the county, mentioned the plan, two staff members volunteered to supervise the trusty crew.
Ricky Krebs, a county employee for two years, was the first.
"It has been great so far," Krebs said. "We have a great group of guys, real hard workers."
The second county supervisor asked not to be identified, fearing his mother would worry if she knew he was working with inmates.
"The biggest surprise to me has been how hard they work," he said. "It's unusual to have to tell a road crew to take a break, and I've had to do that. These fellas want to keep on moving."
Pub Date: 4/04/00