MARYVILLE (WATE) - They may have trashed their community with crime, but now inmates are using their time behind bars to clean up the highway.
Blount County inmates pick up trash five days a week, weather permitting.
"We have one guard and usually four inmates that pick up litter on a full crew," explained Jeff French, assistant chief of administration with the Blount County Sheriff's Office.
The inmates wear orange T-shirts and jeans with the word "inmate" written on them, but they don't worry about fashion. They work quickly.
"We got a lot of tourists going to the Smokey Mountains," said French. "[Picking up trash is] important for our economic development and it's an important thing that we do at the sheriff's office."
The litter crew covers a few miles in no time. They look for anything that's trash, and when they find a big item a truck pulls up to get it.
"In 2010 we picked up right at 218,000 pounds of trash," said French.
Not all of that trash goes into a landfill. About 51,000 pounds of recyclable glass and aluminum are separated from the debris.
Blount County crews have also cleaned up 15 illegal dump sites, which are sites where people just dump their trash off a mountain.
"We picked up 30,000 pounds of trash in those 15 sites," said French.
The Blount County Sheriff's Office receives a $60,000 grant from the Department of Transportation to keep the program rolling. The money pays for an employee, gasoline and education for inmates and the public.
The non-profit organization Keep Blount Beautiful is also part of the litter cleanup grant.
Volunteers work to encourage litter prevention, waste reduction and beautification.
Do you know someone who helps keep the community beautiful or a property 6 News should check out? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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