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 (1,514 Responses)
  1. Mr. President

    I'd take jail

    September 26, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cogito

      I'd take the fine, but since the Republicans haven't proposed a single job creation bill since they took the house last year (Which they swore up & down was their #1 priority!), I guess I'll be in the cell next to you...

      September 26, 2011 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
  2. THTHite

    Alabama confirmed for most blind community. Commit a crime, either go to jail or talk to a cartoon jew to make it all better. Sounds legit.

    Jail please.

    September 26, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Riight

    Jail for me too

    September 26, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  4. raven

    What if i belong to the churcha ME ??

    September 26, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  5. WOT

    Judgment will began at the House of God! The Judge, who started this should be given the Nobel Peace Prize! Our country is broke;

    we can not room and board afford all these petty crimes! Let them follow God's rule for a change!

    September 26, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andreas

      Before anybody thinks that going to church serves any purpose shoudl we not do some investigating first? I mean, the majority of inmates are religious and already are going to church in prison. This is just used as an excuse for the state to save money, nothing else. So you break the law, state that you believe in a fairy and you get to go home? Hm. almost too easy. This 'feel good' BS has to stop. It is getting out of control.

      September 26, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • cwood

      No problem. Have god come down and address the people directly and maybe we'll be glad to listen. I am not planning on living my life based on a series of fairy tales written in a book.

      September 26, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • wowsuchstupidity

      Couldn't agree more, WOT. Church makes people immune to committing crimes. Just like Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart and a long list of other prominent good Christians.

      September 26, 2011 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
  6. raven

    What about the people who ALREADY attend church?

    September 26, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andreas

      they get to hang out with criminals in church about that, eh? Hey, better not judge who is sitting next to you! (It's in the bible) As a good christian you need to give...give to those that homeless criminals. You need to help as much as you can and not be selfish. You do not need a good christmas dinner, presents, symbols (against the bible anyways). All you relilgious 'do-gooders'...stop giving to the church and start giving to your fellow man who needs it more. Open your doors to the homeless, to the drug-dealers, drunks etc. etc. and house em in your homes. Show them how good you are...and make sure you have an inventory of your belongings. Religion...what a scam.

      September 26, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  7. leeintulsa

    Lol! Really.. Now good churchies will have to sit next to potheads and pickpockets. Funny.

    It *is* unconst itutional. Sure, it's 'voluntary', but jews and muslims get no choice because of their religion. If ya wanna do it, it's all in or all out.

    September 26, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • millipede

      There are no Jews or Muslims in that part of AL. Except for Jesus.

      September 26, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jebus

      Didn't Jesus hang around criminals and ne'er do wells? Everyone says they want to be more like Jesus, but when it comes to it, they don't really want to. Don't want to forgive or treat others with kindness. Seems kinda hypocritical to me.

      September 26, 2011 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cogito

      Jesus was THE original Liberal...get over it.

      September 26, 2011 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jj

    Leave it to the ACLU to mess up a good idea! man i wish they would go away

    September 26, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • AmazingSteve

      What a great idea! Why, with no one campaigning for the separation of church and state, we could be just like that other pinnacle of the modern world: Iran!

      September 26, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. leeintulsa

    It's not the ACLU you've got a problem with, it's that pesky const itution..

    September 26, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • wolf0700

      It is actually a choice... Jail, Fine or Church. THey are not being FORCED to go to a church. ACLU is all wet on this one.

      September 26, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ken'ichi Moreland

      Problem is that religious people are favored. There is no secular option equivalent to church

      September 26, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dr.K.

      Wolf, the choice is go to church or go to jail. You really don't see the problem with that? Scary.

      September 26, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Oh Please


      You are that child left behind.

      September 26, 2011 at 8:14 pm | Report abuse |
  10. raven

    Better keep a close eye on the donation plate.

    September 26, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa


      September 26, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reason

      What's the difference if a criminal in the pew steals money from the donation plate and the church stealing it?

      September 27, 2011 at 1:23 am | Report abuse |
  11. banasy©

    While Rowland may have good intentions, I really don't think this will work...there are too many variable, some of which the comments made here reflect.
    I'm with raven; I celebrate at the churcha ME every Sunday, by sleeping in.

    Hi, leeintulsa.

    September 26, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  12. James V.

    Jail everyday and twice on Sunday for me – Incarcerate my body but not my mind.

    September 26, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Astonished Yankee

    The South. Mother of God. Is there no bottom to these people? Is there not a "stupid dial" we can turn down?

    Is the American South the new Saudi Arabia of North America?


    September 26, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ken'ichi Moreland

      Apparently most ambassadors to Saudi Arabia from the US come from the deep south

      September 26, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Astonished Southerner

      Stupidity doesn't adhere to regional boundaries, and the southeastern corridor isn't really anything like Saudi Arabia. There are morons everywhere.

      September 26, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • AmazingSteve

      There might be morons everywhere, but Southerners have a special tendency to elect them to office.

      September 26, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jebus

      Do YOU realize that no one likes a smart-mouthed yankee? I happen to live in Texas and I am an avowed atheist and I have been one for over twenty years. You are picking out the actions of one small town to make a blanket statement about everyone in a very large region. Is there no bottom to your stupidity? There are religious zealots in the north, my friend. In fact, I know quite a few atheists who live close by. I know a lot of religious people who keep their beliefs to themselves and talk about it only when asked about it. Think before you speak. Great policy to abide by. I also know a lot of people from the north who would be ashamed of coming from a place full of people like you.

      September 26, 2011 at 7:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cricket

      Thanks "Jebus". "Astonished Yankee" and those like him/her are the biggest morons of all.

      September 27, 2011 at 7:54 am | Report abuse |
    • DUH bomb


      September 27, 2011 at 9:03 am | Report abuse |
  14. raven

    I can just see it : the dope dealer checkin his watch and rollin his eyes just waitin ta bust outa there...

    September 26, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • James V.

      Unless of course they have armed guards there to keep the "flock" in the pasture so to speak. Picture a scene from Cool Hand Luke only in a church. XD

      September 26, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  15. leeintulsa

    Hi, banasy. This kinda reminds me of staying at the saly when i was hitchhiking to florida. They put me up and fed me while i worked hurricane relief after andrew. Church was mandatory. They kept us segregated from the 'good' people..

    September 26, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
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