Inmates Tame the Grass Along Braddock Road

Inmates such as Chuck Hicks, above, have been mowing along Braddock Road near Fairfax City.
Inmates such as Chuck Hicks, above, have been mowing along Braddock Road near Fairfax City. (Photos By C. Woodrow Irvin -- The Washington Post)
By Leah Carliner
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, August 9, 2007

Hugo Lainez remembered driving along Braddock Road in Fairfax County about once a week.

"It was bad. The grass was pretty bad," he said one day last month, looking out onto the road.

Before his release from the Fairfax Adult Detention Center recently, Lainez, 32, from the Herndon area, helped cut the grass and maintain the area, and he made his observations while a member of the inmate work crew that has been doing that job.

"It makes me feel good. You're doing something for the community," Lainez said at the time. He has since finished serving his time for driving while intoxicated.

Lainez and other members of the center's Community Labor Force have been working along this gently winding thoroughfare this summer in response to complaints to Fairfax County supervisors about the poor conditions of the heavily trafficked roadway.

Usually, roadside maintenance is a job for the Virginia Department of Transportation, not the county.

But Supervisor Sharon S. Bulova (D-Braddock) teamed up with Lt. Jim Carroll of the Fairfax sheriff's department in June when she was told there were not enough state funds to maintain Braddock Road properly.

"VDOT has always not done a very good job of mowing, but this year it got really bad," said Bulova, who added that VDOT could promise to mow Braddock Road only two or three times this fiscal year.

So the members of the detention center's Community Labor Force are picking up the slack.

Inmates accepted for that duty must meet certain criteria, Carroll said. They must be medically approved, have no past escape charges, no violent charges and have less than 12 months left to serve. They work in crews of six inmates, supervised by personnel from the sheriff's department.

Since June, the crews have spent a dozen or so dayspicking up litter and keeping the grass under control between Shirley Gate Road and Backlick Road with tractor mowers and weed whackers provided by the county. They also maintain other areas, including bus stops and the lawns on government properties.

According to Carroll, the detention center's labor force will maintain the eight- to nine-mile strip in a trial period until the end of the fiscal year, when the work will be assessed. Bulova said that it will be up to the sheriff's office and VDOT to decide whether the prisoners will continue next year.

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