North Carolina’s proposed two-year state budget is getting negotiated this month and litter pickup could be one the items getting trashed.
Currently, over 1,200 inmates are assigned to litter crews and road squads across the state. The Department of Public Safety (DPS) receives $9.5 million dollars from the Department of Transportation (DOT) to pay the inmates. But, DOT will no longer support the litter crew program and 183 positions (correctional officers) will be eliminated.
Senator Warren Daniel (R-46) told WBTV, “a provision in the budget that would allow state inmates to continue picking up trash, but the Department of Public Safety would have to bid on projects like other private contractors.”
During a budget appropriations meeting in May, Representative Allen McNeil said private contractors could do more for less.
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QUESTION: Are private contractors more efficient and cheaper than inmates?
PROCESS: According to DPS, 1,200 minimum and medium-level offenders make about 70 cents for day for litter pickup. A crew made of up medium-level offenders can work up to eight people, with three armed guards, while a minimum-level crew can work up to 12 offenders with one unarmed guard.
Inmates cannot spread out, forcing them to stay and work together.
The Office of State Budget and Management observed four DPS litter pick crews during four different days in August of 2011. The crews were from the Orange Correctional Center, Wake Correctional Center, and Raleigh Correctional Center for Women, and a road squad from the Harnett Correctional Institution. A private contractor was also observed.
One litter crews and the private contractor were observed cleaning an interstate highway, while the other three litter crews worked on secondary roads.
The results of the 2012 study? Each private contractor worker was dropped off three miles from their co-worker, and each worker worked alone.
Also, inmates did not work the entire day because of the heat, mechanical problems on transport vehicles and lacking travel route information. Private contract workers only stopped for lunch or to be transported to another location.
At the end of the study, the private contractor cleaned 31 miles of per day, while the most efficient crew only cleared 4.5 miles.
So, we can verify with this study, private contractors are more efficient than inmate crews.
But, are they cheaper? This part of the claim is false. The same study shows while private contractors are more productive, but cost 13 times more. Lawmakers said the solution would be to pay private contractors by the hour instead of per mile.
Department of Public Safety
Department of Transportation
WBTV, On Your Side
Senator Warren Daniel
The Office of State Budget and Management