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. sir_ken_g

    That's illegal. Call ACLU!

    September 26, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Scott

    Hmmmm – do they have a Goddess Temple in that town?

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

      In Bay Minette, Alabama? Doubtful, highly doubtful.

      September 26, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ed

      not thats a good question

      September 26, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Audrey

    This assumes that people who attend church regularly are more moral and ethical than those who don't. That has not be my experience of life, nor is there any objective evidence of that. Also, this assumes that someone who attends church every week – against his or her free will – is the same as someone who attends by choice. Not true, either. And, oh yeah, some of us are sick of having Christianity shoved down are throats and fear a society where the lines between church and state are blurred. Believe what you choose, but leave me alone to believe what I choose.

    September 26, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • what?!

      blah, blah, blah, blah. "Oh, I'm so sick of having Christianity shoved down my throa.....WAIT a MINUTE!! Is that another article that is going to talk about Jesus?????????????? Click. Hmmmm. Oh, back to my comment. How can I stop having all this Christianity shoved down my throat? It's a mystery.

      September 26, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • pat carr

      I agree and am also sick of this horrible religion shoved down my throat.

      September 26, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Laughing hard

    With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.

    September 26, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Bambam

    Give me jail! More genuine Christians in there!

    September 26, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Guest

    To all those that say it is a choice: It isn't. Not only is it ridiculous to assume non religious people should simply pick jail time( which is quite clearly not fun) over church is ridiculous in itself, so it is really no choice. Also the charges are dropped when you attend church, but not if you attend jail, so you will actually have it on the record if you choose jail which is very inequitable and discriminatory against non-religious people and people of other faiths.

    September 26, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  7. TJP

    Jail, please.

    September 26, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  8. paul

    i don't think jesus would approve of this. he wants you to love him freely.

    September 26, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pips

      Exactly right. This was everything he preached against.

      September 26, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boater

      Exactly... It's a case of being no different than the Taliban interpreting the Koran in whatever way THEY see fit to justify their actions....

      September 26, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Kent

    This is certainly a novel idea. I am one for new ideas and giving it a try. Society seems to spend a lot of money on criminals and those in trouble with the law. We, the taxpayers have to foot that bill. Wouldn't it be nice to sit back, watch what happens and see what the statistical results are both in savings of tax dollars and the lives of those who choose church.

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

    This is ridiculous. Going to church makes you more likely to be a criminal than abstaining from church.

    September 26, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boater

      Yeah, but it gives them a great excuse for their actions.... God will SAVE them!

      September 26, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • what?!

      Your logic is what's ridiculous.

      September 26, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boater

      There is no LOGIC in organized religion....

      September 26, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • what?!

      Well, it's a good thing we have you around, boater, to tell everyone what they are doing wrong. Hold on a minute, are you a Christian? Isn't that what Christians get accused of?

      September 26, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boater

      And how would YOU know, being you have no idea whom I am?

      September 26, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boater

      ... must be that LOGIC you are referring to again, eh?

      September 26, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • what?!

      So you can seriously agree with this Matt bloke that thinks you are more likely to be a criminal if you attend a church?? Why don't you take a little trip to Joplin, Missourri and ask the common person who it is that is volunteering their time to help. Is it a church group or the ole boys from cell block 6?

      September 26, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boater

      It depends on if you are talking about one of the well-known religions or one of the "religions." There are MANY "religions" in this country that are either a front to avoid paying taxes or an excuse to do whatever you want and then say you've been SAVED by the "church." In many of the rural areas, the latter is MUCH more common than the former...

      September 26, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
  11. RaisedEyeBrow

    Why not offer "community service"? THAT truely helps a community and the offender's time is put to good use. I
    'd rather clean up a highschool football field for the kids than sit around in some D... a zz church service of the hand wringing type.

    September 26, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Orlop

    My friend is a minister. He got his certification over the internet. Church services are held every Sunday at the local strip club. I choose to go to his church services for a year to reform. I'll even stay all day!

    Yes, an exaggeration, but in this country it could definitely happen.

    September 26, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boater

      Since when does one get a CERTIFICATION to become a minister? Now, I've seen everything...

      September 26, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Kyle

    If the point is to help rehabilitate, why does it have to be a church? Why can't it be some other support group like AA or entering a drug rehab program or whatever else that might fit their crime? I think it's a good idea to keep non-violent, first time offenders out of jail and save the tax payers some money, but this is not the way. Expand it to include non-religious alternatives and then I would agree with this program.

    September 26, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jigga

    sounds like somthing the stupid ignorant south would do.

    September 26, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Boater

    So much for Separation of Church and State....

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