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. Lee

    So your choices are jail, pay fine, or allow the state to attempt to brainwash you with religious disease.

    September 26, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • LargeHuman

      The do have a choice...

      September 26, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • AmazingSteve

      Alright, give me all your money or I'll send someone to break your kneecaps.

      What? It's not like you don't have a choice.

      September 26, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Day Oliver

      I may not live in the state, but I'd rather them be brainwashed than have to pay taxes to pay for them..

      September 26, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scarf

      This is certainly a choice I will not have to worry about making but as a taxpayer, it is certainly cheaper and more likely to cease further crime. I personally don't believe in the fiction of religion but I'd rather a citizen was brainwashed and law abiding than being a tax dollar sucking leech.

      September 26, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. the ONE

    I'd take the jail time instead of the useless drivel they blab about in church

    September 26, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • LargeHuman

      Cuz you like to take it in the...

      September 26, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jimmy

      right the stuff about compassion,peace, etc. Moron

      September 26, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  3. svscnn

    "...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."

    "Once you attend church every week for a year the case would be dismissed."

    "If they complete a year’s attendance, Rowland said, their criminal case would be dismissed."

    Yeah, we get it – they have to attend church for a year. Jesus.

    Way to be as redundant as humanly possible there Mr. Simon.

    September 26, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Justin

    This is so creepy. It's a blatant nose-thumbing at the separation of church/state, and a shameless membership drive for the local churches! If local law wasn't trying to drive convicts to jesus, then why not offer the option to do community service or something similar? This smacks of down-south, small-town godly intimidation.

    September 26, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • LargeHuman

      Or, just stick em jail... Moron!

      September 26, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Adam

    This is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

    September 26, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • LargeHuman

      Not. Thanks for playing...

      September 26, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. how is it forced?

    How is it forced? If you don't want to go to church then don't go. If they offered for people to do community service or sit in jail, and you didnt want to do any work then your a** should sit in jail.

    September 26, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • religousfreedom

      IIf that's the case, for the sake of religious freedom and fairness, the criminals should be offered to attend temples, mosques, and technologies conferences as alternatives too!

      September 26, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • how is it forced?

      It's a town of 8,000 people. I come from a town of 8,000 people. I assume they have this because there maybe only christian churchs in the town etc. So them offering this makes sense. I do see your reasoning but if they don't a specific type of religious organization in that town why would they offer it?

      September 26, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Alter Ego42

    This is so funny. Commit a crime pretend to pray. It will be amazing if non violent crime doesnt climb with this stupid law.
    What do you have to do if it is a violent crime ?attend a stoning of a non believer?

    September 26, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seth Hill

      Stopped into a church, I passed along the way;
      Well, I got down on my knees, and I pretend to pray.
      You know the preacher likes the cold,
      He knows I;m gonna stay.
      California dreamin, on such a winter's day!

      September 26, 2011 at 9:12 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Matthew

    I'd take the time in jail; however, I can't see how this will ever be allowed to stand legally.

    September 26, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • LargeHuman

      You don't suppose they thought of your argument already? nobody is being forced to take the option... So many morons, so little time...

      September 26, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Rich

    They must be hard up for idiots to brainwash..........

    September 26, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • UhYeaOk

      Your a good candidate.....

      September 26, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  10. AW

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    September 26, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • LargeHuman

      Moron. Please see the comment above about redundancy...

      September 26, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • SB

      It is not a real argumentation. People are the Church and People are the Estate, we are the people – REMEMBER, Is the separation a justification or a license to kill others?¿?¿?¿

      September 26, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  11. CT Yankee

    Only in Alabama...........look, these offenders still have the standard speed trap solutions of jail or fine.........this is just in addition to the standard sentences...........this little town only has less than 8000 people living there; how much crime could they have anyway? What's the harm?

    September 26, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • AmazingSteve

      The harm is that courts work off of precedents, and if you allow this in one place, suddenly it can be used as an argument for similar laws somewhere else.

      September 26, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • CT Yankee

      Precedents are not written in stone and have been used to argue case law not sentencing guidelines.

      September 26, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  12. AmericanDoc

    If we truly wish to rehabilitate people, then why not give them this option. Do we think the message that they get in jail would be more effective than the one they would get in church. I get it, the churches are Christian churches. But once again, this is optional. And unless you have the objective evidence to say it doesn't work, why would you take someones free will away. They can always choose a different option.

    September 26, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • QueenJoe1

      As long as it is the tax dollars of Christian thugs shoving their beliefs down other people's throats then fine. Not a G*D Damned cent of my money will go to this crap.

      September 26, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Johnny

      And as others on this forum have asked over and over again, how do you punish those who already attend church every Sunday? Remember, we're talking about people who have committed a non-violent crime, not murderers.

      September 26, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Laughing hard

    When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realized that the Lord does not work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me.

    September 26, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Floyd

    As far as I can tell, religion _is_ a void. Instead I go hiking, mountain climbing, that sort of thing, which is far more spiritual to me. The rest of you can do what you like of course including "nothing", but forcing someone to go to any church will simply make that person run screaming from that church afterward.

    September 26, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • UhYeaOk

      Who is being "forced" to go to church? You lefties love to rewrite things to go your way. Going to church is an OPTION, they are not forced to go. Idiot...

      September 26, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  15. coder

    well....at least they are given a choice.....a year of listening to fairy tales would drive me to commit a crime

    September 26, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • LargeHuman

      I think atheism is just your excuse to be selfish, judgmental and an all-around blithe on humanity...

      September 26, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael H.

      LargeHuman is trolling.

      September 28, 2011 at 1:53 am | Report abuse |
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