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.

Post by:
Filed under: Crime • Religion
soundoff (1,515 Responses)
  1. Joe

    I remember when I was in the service, some of my fellow service men were caught drinking and driving and our Sgt Major offered them to walk up and down the street with a sign that said " I was drinking and driving" during their lunch hours or get written up. I always thought that that was freakin humiliating. BUT, I would choose that over getting written up. I hope that Im never in that situation, but if I was offered to go to church instead serving time...Amen. (no pun intended)

    September 26, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Me

    Can I choose to visit my local satan worshipers? I mean they don't meet in a church and the "preist" is the crazy homeless man on the corner, but hey I'm still willing to practice every Sunday!

    September 26, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Solomon Kane

    Sign me up for the free bed and meals in jail please

    September 26, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pointless1

      You've never gone to jail then because it's not free in the least bit.. you truly end up paying for a couple weeks at a hotel in the end...

      September 26, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  4. blessings

    Well-intended, but you don't know your theology!

    September 26, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Katie Lynn

    I'd take the jail time.

    September 26, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jessica Mc

    ooooooook...so if a Jew breaks the law, then they are screwed because apparently the punishment does not permit for religious freedom, the very idea this country was supposedly founded upon.

    September 26, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      At least in that part of alabama, yes..

      Does anyone else hear a banjo?

      September 26, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • vahellbilly

      Good point... Not everyone is a Christian and to make an offer like this is just plain retarded, for lack of a better term. Religion is a BELIEF and a personal PREFERENCE that cannot be enforced or coerced unless those trying to do it have no integrity or morals themselves.

      Religion is not a provable absolute (scientifically or in any court in the land) and the ACLU is spot on with this one, unlike some legal/social issues they champion.

      September 26, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  7. sjztex

    This seems like a reasonable and cost effective offer. It does tend to blur the line between church and state, however as long as jail or a fine are still other options this seems like a way for people who might need some guidance to get it not at the states expense. Good luck to those trying it out.

    September 26, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • AmazingSteve

      This doesn't "blur the line", it takes a giant steaming dump on the line, laughs at it, pretends there was never even a line in the first place, and then lights the line on fire.

      September 26, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  8. THE ONE AND ONLY DRAKOREX1

    THE PARTYS OVER MFers, NUKE D.C.! THEY GO TO*work*WHEN THEY FEEL LIKE IT .LAUGH AND SMILE,HA HA HA, AND CLAP, CLAP CLAP. I CAN'T STAND THE CLAPPING.OH LOOK!IT S LUNCHTIME STEAK N LOBSTER FOR EVERYONE, AND MARTINI S EVERY DAY AGAIN OVER N OVER. TIME TO GO BACK TO THE OFFICE. CLAP CLAP CLAP OH LOOK IT S ALMOST QUITING TIME HA HA HA CLAP CLAP CLAP! DOE'S ANYBODY FEEL LIKE I DO??? EXCUSE ME SOME WELL DRESSED GENTLEMEN WITH DARK SUN GLASSES ARE KNOCKING ON MY DOOR. I LL BE RIGHT BACK.i hope!

    September 26, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • matt

      Your caps lock is broken.

      September 26, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Gabor47

    I am not a Christian, but I think this is a good idea.

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

      Then you must be an idiot!

      September 26, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Cathy W

    What if you are Jewish? Or Muslim? Can you just attend Synagogue or Mosque services every weekend?

    September 26, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      I was thinking the exact same thing! My guess is that is not an option. It's the Jesus way or the highway.

      September 26, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Michael5472

    This cannot possibly hope to stand the test of inevitable lawsuits. The ACLU and plenty of other organizations will jump on this immediately, and with excellent reason. It's appalling on its face.

    September 26, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  12. RaisedEyeBrow

    If they had given to option for community service, I would say "great idea". But, oh No, it has to be this christian thing, again. Lot of good has it done to Alabama: last in so many states comparisons, it must hurt (ok, not in football). You do not reform people by sending them to a christian church. Can't wait until a jewish citizen is caught in this web and asks, "well, where is my synagogue to go to"? (my bahaii temple, my mosque, my...) Then this backwoods policy will be exposed for what it is: Ignorant sectarianism.

    September 26, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Will

    Now that The Flying Spaghetti Monster ordains ministers, I see an option.

    September 26, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Margaret

    So only Christians get this benefit? Nothing for agnostics, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Wiccans and others? Is the law allowed to favor one religion over the next? I don't think so. This can't stand,

    September 26, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jason

    This is not really a choice. Pay the fine = same as guitly. Serve the time = same as guilty. Go to church = case dismissed. That is not a fair choice.

    September 26, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Laughing hard

      Pressing 'Like' button repeatedly

      September 26, 2011 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49