Prison inmates and volunteers in New Jersey are helping the Department of Transportation's operation crews clean and spruce things up along our highways and roadways.

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The Inmate Litter and Adopt-A-Highway programs are underway for the first time since the pandemic began in 2020 as the DOT is doing their own spring cleaning to help the Garden State look more like a garden again.

As the operating crews for the DOT head out, they're getting an assist from inmates as well as everyday volunteers and groups to pickup litter, remove graffiti and do some landscaping work.

"The Department of Transportation focuses on litter cleanup and graffiti removal and the Inmate Litter and Adopt-A-Highway programs are ways that we augment our crews work," DOT Spokesman Steve Schapiro tells Townsquare Media News. "It gives us some additional folks out there helping us keep the roads clean and litter free."

The Adopt-A-Highway program is run by the DOT and New Jersey Clean Communities Council where they seek volunteers to assist in picking up litter and help with the maintenance of state highways.

"We assign a designated stretch of highway that's been determined to have minimal traffic and is safe for volunteers and about four times a year those volunteers will go out and pick up the litter. They'll leave the bags for the DOT crews to come by, pick them up and dispose of it," Schapiro said. "In exchange, we'll install a sign on the roadway acknowledging that group for helping keep the highways clean."

The Inmate Litter Program is run as a partnership between the NJ-DOT and the New Jersey Department of Corrections, the ladder of whom selects carefully screened inmates who will be trained and then go out and help pick up litter and assist in some cases with landscaping work near guiderails and signposts.

"Over several years (prior to 2020) they've collected as much as 10,500 tons of litter, so certainly it's something that is very helpful," Schapiro said.

Since 2018, the DOT said they've helped remove more than 76,500 square yards of graffiti along our state highways.

You can do your part as well in making our state cleaned by not graffitiing anything and by having common sense and respect by holding your trash, recycling and cigarette butts in your car and not throwing them out the window onto the roadways.

"Everyone has a role to play in keeping New Jersey beautiful and that's really by keeping litter where it needs to be, so if you have trash in your car, keep it in your car until you can dispose of it properly when you get to your destination whether it's in the garbage can or a recycling bin," Schapiro said.

If you and your office, business or organization are interested in the Adopt-A-Highway program to clean up litter and in turn get a roadway with your name on it, head to www.njclean.org and fill out an application or you can contact the Clean Communities Council at 609-989-5900 or njccc@njclean.org.

As always, you're asked to be a considerate driver when you see work being done on the side or or on the roads for everyone's safety.

"Crews are all working during the daytime and they all have safety vests on so they should be highly visible," Schapiro said. "Whenever you see anybody on the side of the road, whether it's our work crews out there cleaning up litter, whether it's emergency personnel assisting motorists on the side of the road like a disabled vehicle or crews working on the highway, we want you to slow down and move over if it's safe to do so and if you can't slow down when you see folks working out there."

You can follow Vin Ebenau on Twitter and Instagram and email news tips to vin.ebenau@townsquaremedia.com.

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