Criminally Sentenced to Road-Kill Cleanup?

If you are convicted of a low-level offense in Ingham County, you may be serving your sentence in a very interesting manner. Sheriff Gene Wriggelsworth is developing a program called “DART”, or the Dead Animal Recovery Team, made up of low level offenders with the sole task of cleaning the Ingham County roadways of dead animals.

Currently, Wriggelsworth says only the large animals are removed, allowing the smaller ones to simply be “smashed into oblivion.” He says his new program, modeled after a similar one in Saginaw County, will save taxpayers money and make the roads safer.

“That’s the whole point,” Sheriff Wriggelsworth said. “The benefit will be cleaner streets clearly, but also the fact that we’ve got people that could have been sentenced to jail working for the community. It’s a win-win.”

So far, two Ingham District judges have voiced their support for the program.

The Sheriff’s Department has purchased a trailer and shovels and there would be no additional cost to the taxpayers. A volunteer deputy would be assigned to supervise the DART participants while working.

For each person assigned to the cleanup crew, the county will save $40 per day, estimates Wriggelsworth.

According to, the program will be used in place of probation or jail time, not as a probation condition.

While Wriggelsworth sees this as a win-win for the community, it seems he is not considering the effects on the offenders. Is participation in DART really serving any purpose beyond humiliation?

If the small animals on Ingham County roads are such a risk, the County would have been removing them long ago. As is, they are unattractive, but little more than a speedbump. Also, $40 per day in a County budget is unremarkable savings. Instead, this seems like a modern day gallows, with no other legitimate purpose but embarrassment.

Some might argue that the DART program would deter future criminals. But such penalties have been shown to have little deterrent effect. Among people who break the law multiple times, there are usually deep-seated issues that keep them returning to the courts, issues that a little embarrassment and sense of disgust surely won’t fix.

Used properly, probation has a lasting effect on someone’s propensity to reoffend. When the proper supports are in place to provide a positive term of probation, an offender is given the tools to succeed in addition to any assistance like mental health counseling and drug treatment. When you sentence a low level drug offender to pick up dead animals instead, they are missing out on any rehabilitative benefits of more traditional sentences.

If you are accused of a crime, whether you are in Ingham County or not, we may be able to help you minimize the impact of these charges on your life. Contact our offices today to discuss the options available to you.


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