A Murfreesboro company that recycles household trash is now helping to recycle the lives of non-violent criminals. It's part of the Rutherford County Correctional Work Center (RCCWC) work release program. And it's making a difference for offenders one plastic bottle at a time.
LaGreggory Sweatt was sentenced to a year at the work center after being convicted of driving under the influence.
"We're all not bad," Sweatt said. "We all deserve a chance like anyone else."
And he's getting that chance by participating in the RCCWC work release program.
"You're able to work while you are incarcerated and when you get out, you'll have a work history," Sweatt said.
He's making $7.50 an hour at All In One Recycling in Murfreesboro. The company is not only recycling trash, but the lives of these offenders as well.
"It's helping to recycle my life and it's helping the community out," Sweatt said. "I think everyone should be recycling; it's a really good program for inmates."
All In One was conceived when the owner saw the tons of trash being buried at what's commonly referred to as Mt. Trashmore, the BFI landfill near the Walter Hills Community in Rutherford County. The business started with one employee now it has 10, four of them are inmates.
"We can count on them to get the material moved through quickly, and they also get something in return," co-owner Kaley Brownlee said.
There are strict guidelines: no visitors, no phone calls, no drugs or alcohol. The money they make is used to pay fines, court costs, transportation and any child support or restitution. The program is helping to prevent the inmates from re-offending once they are released.
"The program is set up to get the offenders back on track in life," said RCCWC Sgt. Jason Peralta. "A lot of time when they get back in society they get mixed up with the wrong friends again and then it's like a revolving door for them."
The inmates are non-violent, non-felony offenders, so the employers don't have to worry about safety, according to work center officials. Plus they are monitored with a GPS ankle bracelet.
"Being a female I get a lot of questions (like), 'where is the guard,'" Brownlee said. "They are no different than anyone else I hire off the street. Like you said they have a GPS ankle bracelet on; if they want to run they can, we are going to find them."
Sweatt said he's learned his lesson as well as gained skills to be a productive member of society.
"I definitely will not get back out there on the highway and drink and drive," he said. "I have children of my own, and I definitely wouldn't want get out there and hurt anyone else's children."
One inmate worker at All In One Recycling recently graduated the program, and was given a letter of recommendation for another job.
Swanson Christian Products in Murfreesboro also hires work release inmates. Work center officials said the company is so impressed with the workers, they just offered a female offender a full-time job.
RCCWC officials are also looking for other faith-based companies that are willing to participate in the work release program. For more information you can contact Bernard Salandy, work center superintendent or Sgt. Jason Peralta at (615) 898-7847 or visit their website: http://www.rutherfordcountytn.gov/cwc/index.htm.
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