Jesus or jail? Alabama town offers options for serving time
September 26th, 2011
03:47 PM ET

Jesus or jail? Alabama town offers options for serving time

If you're charged with a nonviolent crime in one Alabama town, you might just have the chance to pray it all away.

Starting this week, under a new program called Operation ROC (Restore Our Community), local judges in Bay Minette, Alabama, will give those found guilty of misdemeanors the choice of serving out their time in jail, paying a fine or attending church each Sunday for a year.

The goal of the program is to help steer those who are not yet hardened criminals the chance to turn their lives around. Those who choose to go to church (there are no mosques or synagogues in the area) will have to check in with a pastor and the police department each week, CNN affiliate WKRG reported. Once you attend church every week for a year the case would be dismissed.

Police Chief Mike Rowland said the measure is one that would help save money and help direct people down the right path. Rowland told WKRG it costs $75 a day to house each inmate.

"Longevity is the key," he told WKRG.

He said he believes 30-day drug programs don't have the long-term capabilities to heal someone in the ways the ROC program might.

Police in the town said they think it is a simple choice, but others think it's a choice that shouldn't even be offered.

The ACLU in Alabama said the idea is "blatantly unconstitutional," according to the Alabama Press-Register.

"It violates one basic tenet of the Constitution, namely that government can’t force participation in religious activity," Olivia Turner, executive director for the ACLU of Alabama told the paper.

Rowland acknowledged there were concerns about separation of church and state complaints but said he didn't see it as too big of a problem because offenders weren't being forced to attend church, they are just being given the option.

The offenders who voluntarily choose church over jail get to pick the churches they attend. If they complete a year’s attendance, Rowland said, their criminal case would be dismissed.

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Filed under: Crime • Religion
soundoff (1,515 Responses)
  1. Devin Gray MD

    SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE. WE MUST NOT ALLOW THIS LINE TO BE BLURRED, EVEN A SMALL AMOUNT, FOR ANY REASON.

    September 26, 2011 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Al Gore

      Um – have you seen just about the *entire* GOP lately?

      September 26, 2011 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paige

      Agreed! The last thing we need is another dark ages, which is where the GOP is trying to "lead" us.

      September 26, 2011 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      ABSOLUTELY! This and nothing more is relevant to this issue.

      September 26, 2011 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marc

      It's not in violation. The criminal has the right to choose secular punishment.

      September 26, 2011 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Roy Rogers

    And what if one is a Buddhist, like myself? Do I get to do Daimuku twice a day for a year? Hay wait a minute, I already do.

    September 26, 2011 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marc

      No....you get to attend service with us or serve secular punishment. This is the option the town chose....if you don't like it, commit minor crimes in another town. I don't understand why anyone is complaining about punishment. Don't commit the crime and you won't be subject to it.

      September 26, 2011 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
  3. arciel

    back to the inquisition . . . what a joke. Are they that desperate to get people to go to church ?

    September 26, 2011 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Normal

    So I can sit around and be taught about your invisible sky wizard...or I can go to jail? Jail please.

    September 26, 2011 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Kevin

    THIS IS THE BEST THING TO HAPPEN TO THE LEGAL SYSTEM......THEIR HAS TO BE SOMETHING THAT WILL TURN THE MORALS BACK IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION IN THIS COUNTRY.....WE LIVE IN THE THESE UNITED STATES THE MOST PROSPOROUS COUNTRY IN THE WORLD AND THE MOST UNGRATEFUL COUNTRY IN THE WORLD....YES THEIR IS A SUPREME BEING AND HE DID HAVE A SON NAMED JESUS AND JESUS'S MOTHER WAS MARY..........IF YOU DO NOT HAVE FAITH IN GOD THE FATHER AND HIS SON, YOU HAVE NOTHING BUT A BIG EMPTY HOLE IN THE MIDDLE OF YOU.......IT IS ABOUT TIME FOR THE PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY GET DOWN ON THEIR KNEES AND THANK GOD FOR WHAT THEY HAVE AND NOT THEIR MATERIAL THINGS...........

    September 26, 2011 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ashrakay

      ... wow, you really sold it with the all caps! great work.

      September 26, 2011 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Laughing hard

      I think flying planes into a building was a faith-based initiative. I think religion is a neurological disorder.

      September 26, 2011 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Normal

      WE CAN HEAR YOU WITHOUT THE CAPS! So Mary was a virgin...alrighty? A man lived inside a whale for 3 days?...you betcha. A man rose from the dead and flew up into the sky? Two of every living thing fit on one boat? why of course!
      Man...how could you not base your entire life on a book like that? Oh and the invisible sky wizard watches everything you do at all times and know your past and future. Question for you. If God can do anything...then could he make a rock so heavy he could not pick it up? hmmmm.. think about that Einstein and get back with me. What an idiot.

      September 26, 2011 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • keyser

      IWhat you're saying is all Booga, Mooga, Juuga nonsense.

      September 26, 2011 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • fc

      Right on!

      September 26, 2011 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Al Gore

      Translation: "WE GOT TO DO SOMETHIN' ABOUT THEM GAAAAAAYS"

      Don't worry – them sinners end up on their knees a lot in jail too.

      September 26, 2011 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • JT

      People who type in ALL CAPS are proven to be the most uneducated among us. They shout their ignorance from the roof tops. Did you just now get this new fangled Internet machine wired to your trailer? Now that you've found the CAPS LOCK key you should now at least learn the difference between their, they're and there. You are no doubt a creationist as well.

      September 26, 2011 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Ashrakay

    Well, if you read the bible you'll see that god is okay with murder of children, incest, killing people that disagree with you, slavery, vengeance, et al. I don't think putting criminally minded people in this arena would be a very wise choice. It will probably only give them ideas.

    September 26, 2011 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Indigo

      "Thou shall not kill"

      September 26, 2011 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Laughing hard

    A quote from a Famous Alabamian....

    Stupid is as stupid does..... (Forrest Gump)

    September 26, 2011 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
  8. fc

    Why are people making a big deal about this? The article does not state that they HAD to go to church. It is simply giving them an option. Pay the fine, and if your broke go to jail, but if your scared....go to church.

    September 26, 2011 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ashrakay

      Ever hear of separation of church and state? I'm sure the people in Iran would love to have that system in place.

      September 26, 2011 at 9:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • JESUSisLORD

      I have to agree with all the God hating atheists; you can't force Jesus on people.

      September 26, 2011 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • keyser

      How can you hate something that doesn't exist.

      September 26, 2011 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      The problem is that the case is dismissed if you attend church, while with the other options it goes on your record. Very unbalanced options.

      September 26, 2011 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • fc

      ASHRAKAY- They are not being forced to do anything. They are merely given an option. I'd rather have my tax dollars spent on something other than housing an individual in jail.

      September 26, 2011 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • fc

      @ Chris either way it is an option...there is nothing unbalanced unless you are forced to do something against your own will.

      September 26, 2011 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
  9. steve c

    By contrast- the Progressive holy sacraments are:

    Abortion
    Drug Legalization
    Welfare
    Universal Healthcare
    Gay Marriage
    Gun Control
    Amnesty
    Tax Increases
    Government Expansion
    Political Correctness
    Regulation
    Collective Bargaining

    WWJD?

    September 26, 2011 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • HillClimber

      Steve – I sure you wanted to make a point by your statement, but I must confess that I have totally missed it.

      September 26, 2011 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Laughing hard

      WWJD = Who Wants Jelly Donuts

      September 26, 2011 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • 3h5w34hbhwh5q4h

      all good things. you must be some sort of retard.

      September 26, 2011 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Laughing hard

      By the the way I am for most of things you listed..... Your Point??

      September 26, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jordan

      Jesus would probably let people make their own choices, not create laws to restrict those choices.

      September 26, 2011 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve c

      My point is that Progressives and Atheists have their religion too.

      September 26, 2011 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Castiel

      Jesus would b!tchslap you for yammering a bunch of nonsense in his father's name.

      September 26, 2011 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • JT

      Jesus would probably say "stop following me you idiots. All you read about me in this bible are lies written long after my death. BTW.....I'm still dead."

      September 26, 2011 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Laughing hard

      Steve C..
      If atheism is a religion than perfectly healthy is an illness...

      September 26, 2011 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve c

      It just seems to me the common themes with Atheists and Progressives are very similar they are:

      1) Playing the victim

      2) The world revolves around the individual- extreme arrogance

      The problem then become the policies that stem from this egocentric ideology- many would argue that they are bad for society and the economy.

      Forgot another sacrament of progressives: Global Warming. Man is the cause and we are all going to die.

      September 26, 2011 at 10:18 pm | Report abuse |
  10. atroy

    Most people who commit misdemeanors already attend church services regularly so how's this going to change their behaviour?

    September 26, 2011 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Cindy

    Who do I make the check out to? Alabama...pfff.

    September 26, 2011 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
  12. m1sterlurk

    I don't see how sending them to church would help. The most depraved people I've ever met were all churchgoers.

    September 26, 2011 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
  13. bigwilliestyles

    Whether you op for jail or church, you still better be careful if you drop your soap.

    September 26, 2011 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Nick

    From hardened criminals to hardened bigots! Much better!

    September 26, 2011 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • JESUSisLORD

      The only bigots here are you God-hating atheists.

      September 26, 2011 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Fr33th1nk3r

    One would think that a better use for these crimnals would be to put them to work in some way that benefits soceity– not forcing them to attend religious services. Make them serve lunch to the elderly at a senior community, make them talk at high schools, make them pick up trash or do the cheap work we need illegal immigrants to do now. What benefit does society get from forcing them to attend Christian services? Most, if not ALL gangster rappers are Christians, most serial killers are always God-crazy (and think they are operating under direct orders from above), and most hard-time prison inmates end up going Christian– and has it made any difference at all? Is there even a single statistical study that shows a correlation with church service attendance and criminal recidivism? This was a dumb move, by a dumb state, filled with mostly dumb people– not sure how else to sugar coat this.....

    September 26, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Castiel

      Yes – do actual good work in the community, and meet the people they affect when they do something stupid. Instead of sitting in a pew and listening to morality parables, listening to the 'faithful' murmuring prayers as part of a kneejerk reaction that hardly means a thing anymore.

      September 26, 2011 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
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