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. Osro

    Tihs is a joke, right?

    September 27, 2011 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
  2. DFergATL

    So much for the separation between Church and State. But, heck it Alabama so it isn't surprising.

    September 27, 2011 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Epidi

      I was born in a small town in AL and I have to say I'm shocked. If there are no Temples or Mosques, what's a non Christian to do? Convert? Puleeze! This is ridiculous and there's a reason Church & State need to be seperate. Just look at the Middle East nations and you'll find your answers why!

      September 27, 2011 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
  3. SNAPPA

    So the theocracy begins, what tends to make these cult people believe going to church puts you on the "right" track? Tell that to all those children that were molested in churches.

    September 27, 2011 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  4. CMC

    Slippery Slope...

    September 27, 2011 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
  5. Ron

    This is one of the thing most 3rd world countries continue to thrive on as dark ages fools. Booga Booga.... were going to God the bad right of of you! Come on people. We have already invented fire and the wheel. Time to get real.

    September 27, 2011 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
  6. DrDoITT

    lets hurry up and incorporate a church in the area, and for a fee report to the cops that the dudes showed up.. no need to even hold services!

    September 27, 2011 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
  7. kcron

    This is one of the thing most 3rd world countries continue to thrive on as dark ages fools. Booga Booga.... were going to God the bad right of of you! Come on people. We have already invented fire and the wheel. Time to get real.

    September 27, 2011 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
  8. David

    If this happened in an islamic country, america would go off about religious extremism, but here, oh no, it's just a good idea...imbeciles....

    September 27, 2011 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  9. Gracko

    And Christians wonder why there is a backlash against Christianity...

    September 27, 2011 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  10. Dood

    Non-believers are gonna hate. It's an option that has a much better chance of turning these offenders lives around. If you're liberal (or conservative), which would you rather for the person? A better chance at turning their life around, or jail, which really has no rehabilitation? Put the person first and not yourselves or your hateful thinking.

    September 27, 2011 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
  11. Rosslaw

    Could you even imagine if an offender said I'll take up your offer but I want to go to a synagogue or "worse", a mosque. He would be shown the spiritual enlightment of being crucified.

    September 27, 2011 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
  12. stevie68a

    christianity may have some good points, but it is still a lie. jesus is imaginary, jesus is imaginary. This bronze age thinking
    has got to end before it destroys our country. If extremists get into power, the dormant forces will awake, and cause havoc
    against nonbelievers. As Freud pointed out, religion is "a mental illness". It is a delusion. Teach ethics instead.

    September 27, 2011 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
  13. GiveusBarabbas

    Either way you'll get screwed.

    September 27, 2011 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  14. lloyd roberts

    Yes, religion has really helped Alabama avoid hatred, rascism, violence, discrimination, brutality. Never had any of those things happening in Alabama cause they got that good ole time religion

    September 27, 2011 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  15. Grieg Pedersen

    So much for equal protection. Non-Christians go to jail or pay a fine and have a record; Christians go to church and don't have a record because their cases are dismissed.

    September 27, 2011 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
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