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. daniel

    you want seperation of church and state? that is what we have now, hows that working for you???????

    September 26, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fr33th1nk3r

      That is what we have ALWAYS had since America became a sovereign nation....how is it working for you???? Gangster rappers, some 99% of serial killers, and most, if not ALL felony prison inmates end up going Christian– how is that working for them????? I sure do see a LOT fo repeat offenders.....I guess forcing them to attend church doesn't really help, does it?

      September 26, 2011 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ashrakay

      Really? That's what we have??? what about President prayer club who says he talks to god and god talks back. What about the Terry Shaivo republicans that thought a brain dead body had the right to life? What about the people trying to ban gay marriages in congress?

      September 26, 2011 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Dave Fl

    Havent seen in any story it has to be a ztian church. Must be a few Wickens around there somewhere, oa a least a FSM weekly gathering!

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

      That would be WICCAN, Dave, not Wicken. But you did capitalize it and it was a nice thought.

      September 26, 2011 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
  3. J Ross

    Hey, if it would get me out of going to jail, I'd go and pay lip service to their phony baloney god once a week. It would take more than a year to get me to believe those myths and fairy tales.

    September 26, 2011 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Unknown

    This idea could work, if there were a fourth option for those who would like to avoid jail and fines but are opposed to religion. They could choose to attend weekly non-religious motivational lectures at a public location. Changing ones life by making better choices can be inspired without religion.

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

      But here you miss the underlying theme: religious indoctrination.

      September 26, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Lokust

    It's hard for me to imagine something that could possibly be more discriminatory against atheists.

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

      I agree...but like I said in my comment, I'd have no problem with taking the jail option.

      September 26, 2011 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • nwatcher

      No – you didn't read the article. No one is forced to choose to attend church – they can choose to sit it out at taxpayers expense and not pray to their not god while enjoying their not freedom. In what other nation do you get choices like that?

      Athiests in Iran and Saudi Arabia get to convert or die. Here you get some freedom and religion or you get the air conditioned, three meals a day jailtime. Life is so hard in America for lawbreakers and criminals (weep, weep).

      September 26, 2011 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Nicole

    LOL! I'll go stamp license plates in jail before I pray haha!!

    September 26, 2011 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Turtleguy

    This is completely inappropriate and borders on disgusting. Like being in a church is a magic bullet against criminal activity. Bunch of morons.

    September 26, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • nwatcher

      oh get over yourself

      September 26, 2011 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Gavin Ford

    I guess I could pretend to be a myth-believer to stay out of prison, why not?

    September 26, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • JESUSisLORD

      Go to jail; you will get more out of it or get more in you.

      September 26, 2011 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Hmmm...

    I'm considering opening a church in this town, with myself as the minister. The Church of Criminal Redemption. We will focus on the belief in a god who rewards criminality only if the ill-gotten gains are given to the church for its "ministries" I will pass the basket every Sunday. "Give and be Free!"

    September 26, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • keyser

      Jimmy Swaggart already did that. It worked. Now Jimmy's on his yacht in the Mediterranean taking it easy in retirement and laughing at all the suckers.

      September 26, 2011 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Angry AS HELL

    As an American Citizen, Taxpayer, and Voter, I am calling for the disbarment of this pathetic excuse for a judge IMMEDIATELY!!!

    And all those cops, supporters, community people in AL who agree with the judge need to be ARRESTED for violating the LAW!

    September 26, 2011 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve c

      good luck with that...

      September 26, 2011 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Tex71

    No problem with this program as long as they have the option of attending synagogue, mosque, Mormon temple, or Wiccan grove. Not sure if we should include Church of Scientology or Evangelical megachurches – have to draw the limit somewhere between religion and get-rich schemes.

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

      Boy are YOU stupid. You don't care about violating the Const.tution. You suck at being an American. Go fu.k off and die.

      September 26, 2011 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • nwatcher

      Ignore Possum there...I got the humor in what you said (You did intend it to be funny, right?)

      September 26, 2011 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • FishOnTheMoon

      When it's not obvious people should put their comment between the tags .

      September 27, 2011 at 12:08 am | Report abuse |
    • FishOnTheMoon

      lol someone forgot to escape the posts 😛

      September 27, 2011 at 12:10 am | Report abuse |
  12. Karen H.

    Just more proof that we should have let them secede way back in the 1860's.

    September 26, 2011 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
  13. bec

    If that were implemented where I live, I would be at the beach every Sunday morning. That's my church.

    September 26, 2011 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
  14. steve505

    Church for a year, or prison. I'd take prison. At least my mind would remain free.

    September 26, 2011 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • nwatcher

      Ah...but what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?

      September 26, 2011 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse |
  15. JT

    Sounds like cruel and unusual punishment to me, and an easy scapegoat for other's with a larger tolerance for the ridiculous.

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