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. jason

    some christian BS n my opinion. i can commit a crime and just pray it off.. what kind of bs is that? 75$ TO HOLD A prisoner. 50 cents to put a bullet through his head.

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

      So you would shoot someone for smoking a joint, first offense? I think that .50 is better spent on the bullet headed for your head. I agree with the christian bs part, but you embarrass yourself and render your point worthless when you say crap like that. People like you give atheism a bad name.

      September 26, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. K

    Clearly the tax savings isn't enough for people to give it a try. . . What if it works?

    September 26, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kyle

      Doesn't matter. It's sets a dangerous precedent, going against one of the basic foundations of the US. For those who are not religious it forces them to pretend or go to jail or pay the fine. Maybe it helps, but more likely it just makes them angry for having to be there every Sunday. If they are already religious, they may already go to church every Sunday and what kind of punishment would that be? It's not for a large portion of the population, so it shouldn't be allowed.

      September 26, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Nina

    Geez! When will the people of Alabama stop embarassing themselves?

    September 26, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cassy

      lol, they will never stop...they lost the Civil War..the embarrassment will never end.

      September 26, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
  4. leeintulsa

    @guest: totally missed that angle.. Dropped charges are different from paying your dues.. I think *even the church* made indulgences wrong.. And only christians can get their crimes dismissed. So wrong on so many levels

    September 26, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
  5. josey

    It is illegal but they might be able to get away with it. After all how long have they gotten away with forced AA meetings?

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

      Being that AA is not a religion you can't even start to compare the two.

      September 26, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Iconoclast

      @Jessica, AA may not be a church, but it does require participants to state a belief in a higher power. To me that makes it a religious organization.

      September 26, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Cassy

    Jail please!

    I'd rather punish myself in a cell then in a stiffling hot church, listening to beliefs that I don't agree with. This is America and that is my choice. =) Sinners are more fun anyway. =p

    September 26, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Laughing hard

    So a catholic priest who R*pes a little boy wouldn't have to pay for his crime because he's in church all the time....

    September 26, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      Not in favor of this, but did you not read the article before commenting. NONVIOLENT offenders. R@pe is a violent crime.

      September 26, 2011 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • DuhDuhDuh

      You moron...the church option is only offered for misdemeanors.

      September 26, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jessica

    Wow, giving that choice to those that want/will to go to church is treating them differently than they are treating those that don't want to choose the church option. Also there isn't a temple or mosque. This means that this is a completely illegal option without even counting the separation of church and state part. Add in that part and this is so illegal even a 4th grader would realize it.

    September 26, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  9. George

    Ah Alabama, once again you show the world how backward you are and in the process embarrass the rest of the United States, except for Mississippi of course.

    September 26, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Brian Fox

    What ever happened to the seperation of church and state?

    September 26, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  11. socal

    Our founding fathers are rolling in their graves.

    September 26, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Cassy

    In the South the seperation of Church and State doesn't exist...never did and never will.

    September 26, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  13. clint

    Ill take church u only get R@ped there if ur a kid

    September 26, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jeff Frank ( R - Ohio ) "Fanatic"

    "No amount of good behavior can be used like a credit card to be bad."

    September 26, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. avacon

    First step toward: "Go to church or go to jail."

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