PennDOT Centre County Maintenance has enjoyed a partnering relationship with SCI Rockview regarding litter clean-up along major roadways in the county. Crews for this activity are comprised of Rockview inmates enrolled in its Community Work Program (CWP).
The Covid pandemic seriously sidelined the CWP—bringing it to a halt in 2020. With health-related restrictions lifting, SCI Rockview staff knew they wanted to get the program back into the community and worked hard to mobilize and restart the CWP in May of 2022. Centre County Maintenance got in touch with them last year to work on re-igniting the program with PennDOT in 2023.
With State Routes 26/I-99 and 150 traversing through SCI Rockview property, the CWP always addressed litter clean-up along those routes. But starting the week of March 27, PennDOT was able to add sections of I-99 outside of Rockview property, with CWP crews cleaning a 1 ½ mile stretch of I-99 in the State College area.
I-99 typically sees commuter traffic, passenger vehicle traffic, and significant commercial truck traffic. On the first day, crews collected 99 bags of garbage. Day 2 brought in more than 1,000 pounds of trash.
As spring progressed and Earth Day approached, work was scheduled for daylight hours April 17-21, along the I-99 corridor. Crew locations varied so District 2 issued a press release reminding motorists to drive with caution as they approach and pass litter crews working near the road.
To enhance safety for the litter crews, PennDOT provided a crash truck, as well as advance notice on permanent message boards and portable message boards. Additionally, Pennsylvania State Police had an increased presence along these roadways to alert motorists to the activity and the need to slow their speeds.
Beyond litter pick-up, the CWP works with a variety of municipalities and organizations in Centre and other adjacent counties, covering everything from non-profit groups to volunteer organizations to other state agencies.
Wade Renninger, Corrections Forest and Nursery Manager at Rockview noted that an effort like the CWP doesn’t just “fall together”. To qualify as a CWP member, inmates at Rockview are vetted through a set of requirements including their conduct and offense record. As Wade shared, “These crew members are representing SCI Rockview out in the community. We’re very proud of the program and the success we’ve seen. And we believe the CWP spotlights what we can do when state agencies and community groups work together to do positive things.”
For crew members, taking part in the CWP is a chance to be productive, work outside, give back to the community, and accomplish something. “Inmates in the program will return to their homes and families”, said Renninger. “Being a part of the CWP gives them a sense of purpose and responsibility and helps them better understand the expectations that employers will have on the job.”
The spring litter pick-up proved to be the latest part of the CWP success story. During the week of April 17, CWP litter crews worked a stretch of I-99 from Shiloh Road near the Nittany Mall to the Tofttrees area. This is about a 4-mile stretch of I-99. During the week of pick-up, there were no accidents and no close calls. Traffic control, provided by PennDOT and PSP, worked well. The litter pick-up effort netted approximately 4,000 pounds of trash.