We like it when Greenwood’s county manager, Toby Chappell talks trash. After all, it’s led to some cleaner roadsides throughout the county.
As detailed in a front-page story Monday, the county has seen more than 10 miles of roadside litter cleaned up and stowed in 169 13-gallon bags within the last three months -- all at minuscule cost to the county taxpayers. Chappell and Richard Williams, an agent with the state Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services, developed and launched a plan that puts parolees and those given community service sentences to work cleaning our roadsides.
We have long bemoaned the fact that litter pickup apparently was relegated to various civic and church groups, and individual volunteers when there are criminals who ought to be doing the work. Fine, the days of chain gangs are long gone, but there is nothing wrong with putting prisoners, along with parolees and community service workers out on the roads and highways. It’s commendable that so many organizations willingly do participate in litter cleanup, but maybe they deserve their weekend time while those who have time they are supposed to serve for crimes can better serve the community performing the cleanup.

Community groups performing roadside litter pickup should be the exception, not the norm. We don’t need prisoners and parolees armed with sledgehammers on rock piles, we need them in the ditches and along our highways and roadways picking up trash. That would serve the community well and be a reasonable sentence to impose on a good many of our criminals. The groups that have adopted highways and roadways can certainly continue to do so, but they need not be the sole performers of this task.
The volunteers, of course, do not cost the county money, but this is not just about a cost-saving venture. Community service and paying society back for committing a crime can come in many forms. For those who do not need a prison sentence, litter cleanup incorporates meaningful labor with a punishment that is hardly cruel or unusual. Good heavens, if it’s not considered cruel -- and it’s definitely not unusual -- to see church groups walking the roadsides cleaning up, why would it be considered such for parolees and prisoners?
The program Chappell and Williams developed isn’t rocket science. It isn’t even a new concept. Rather, it is a forgotten concept all too logical and should be brought back into play across the state. Let’s face it. Jail, prison, parole and community service will not deter many criminals. Those are merely ways of handling the ones who get caught. And let’s face something else. There will always be people who think the highways and roadsides are their trash cans and landfills. So why not put the criminal to work cleaning up the litter? It’s a win-win solution to address two perpetuals in life.
Oh, and anyone caught and sentenced for littering? Oh yes, put that one to work on the roads with the most litter -- and perhaps with fewer helpers alongside. Just to make the point.