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. resident298

    They're doing the same thing in San Francisco. Except you have to spend the weekend in a gay bar.

    September 26, 2011 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Al Gore

      I genuinely laughed out loud at this.

      September 26, 2011 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • munkittrick

      Funny as hell.

      September 26, 2011 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. resident298

    Just Joking.

    September 26, 2011 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
  3. 21k

    as long as one of the churches is the local atheist house of worship, ie, anywhere on earth. when are we going to stop spending taxpayers' money on giving these religious businesses a tax break? isn't it time we gave up the fairy tales?

    September 26, 2011 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Leafonthewind

      I agree, religious organizations should not be tax-exempt. There. Budget problems solved.

      September 26, 2011 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marie

      And how has the fairy tale of evolution helped anybody?

      September 26, 2011 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Question Everything

      At least evolution pays taxes.

      September 26, 2011 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Leafonthewind

    So in this Alabama town, the only way to get a misdemeanor charge dismissed (i.e., expunged from criminal record) is to attend church every week for a year? What if you're an atheist? How can you get the charged dismissed if you don't believe in god? Are they requiring attendance at a specific church? Could you attend a synagogue or a mosque? This is Christianity run amok, people. They are out of control and they must be stopped. It is supreme arrogance on the part of this town to try to FORCE their beliefs on others, which is what this "law" is attempting to do. Usually I don't have a problem with those who choose to believe in the imaginary friend for grownups, but this is creating a situation where you are punished if you don't share their faith. It's just wrong.

    September 26, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Al Gore

      Here, let me help before one of the faithful gets to you first:

      "We-ll, if you was a good God-fearin' soul in the first place 'an had Jes-us in yer heart, you wouldna been causin' no misdemeaners to begin with."

      September 26, 2011 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • DB

      Why don't you guys chill out? They aren't forcing people to go to church. They are offering it as an alternative to jail, this sounds like a great idea. Otherwise it would be taxpayer money going to support their stay in the jail hotel.

      September 26, 2011 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
  5. John

    America needs to grow up and drop all the church crap. There is no GOD!!! Grow up people.

    September 26, 2011 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • AGeek

      The key is that we are free to believe, or *not* believe, as each sees fit. Doesn't matter that you and I think they're ignoramuses of the highest order.

      September 26, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
  6. AGeek

    What in the F–K?!?! Separation of Church and State, anyone? DISBAR THE JUDGE. NOW!

    September 26, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • DB

      Separation of church and state implies that the government cannot prevent you from your religious beliefs, not that those elected can't have religious beliefs. As far as I can see it, this is well within the borders of the 1st amendment, if people do not want to go to church they can go to jail within their original sentence.

      September 26, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • JOS

      Uh, no. Separation of Church and State means CHURCH and STATE will remain SEPARATED. A public official has no business using religion when handing down state-endorsed penalties for crimes, period.

      September 26, 2011 at 8:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Louis

    Just wait untilthe nutcase Teapartyier's get intothe White House we will have to bow/kneel / and pray before anything we do

    September 26, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. thedude

    I could think of a worse option. JAIL. Ever been to county? Its not a nice place depending where you live. Everyone keeps over looking the fact that they said church. Keep be any church. If there's not a mosque in town then drive to the next town. Didn't say must be christian. Lots of haters, and I don't even believe in god. Relax liberals.

    September 26, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eric Cartman

      Sure, but let's think about how folks manage to get out early for good behavior, or out on parole in this country – by claiming that you've let Jesus into your heart. Without those keywords, no one can proce they've turned over a new leaf.

      Now stfu about 'liberals' and make me some pie.

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

      really.....look at all of the idiots who don't know how to read......

      September 26, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Leafonthewind

      "Didn't say must be christian." Yes, it did. Try again. Work on those reading comprehension skills.

      September 26, 2011 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Tanker Ray

    And....there goes the separation between church and state.

    September 26, 2011 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Kathryn

    Would probably rather spend the year in jail than in an Alabama redneck church

    September 26, 2011 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
  11. You'reAllDumb

    You don't have to take the option of church you idiots, you can pay the fine or go to jail, it's just an extra option. You retards think that's the only option.

    September 26, 2011 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Al Gore

      Get back in the kitchen and make sandwiches, wh0re.

      September 26, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Norman

      the option is illegal dumdum

      September 26, 2011 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • DB

      It is not illegal, brush up on your 1st amendment. This country was founded on the belief of god but with the ability to accept other religions. Nothing in the 1st amendment says the country can't support god, it just says we have to allow others to express themselves as well.

      People love coming and interpreting the 1st amendment the way they want to hear it. There is a reason our money says In God We Trust.

      September 26, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jan

      lets add the following option: spend time in a slaughterhouse watching animals die (I am sure vegetarians might not like that) do you understand my point now? offering church is not a viable option to prison as people who do not believe in god are given a Hobson's choice – they can only take jail – so there are 'options' that aren't available to everyone, unless you declare that atheists can go to .... well there can't by definition exist a house of worship for atheists cause we don't believe in any god, so I guess the only place they can go is home?

      September 26, 2011 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Leafonthewind

      It isn't about paying a fine or going to jail, it's about having a criminal record for the rest of your life. Go to church for a year, charge dismissed. Pay the fine or do the time, the charge stays on your record. Who's the retard now?

      September 26, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
  12. IlovetheLord

    I think it would be a church and state issue if tax money is flowing into the church to support the program. It would be a good way for Church goers to actually be challenged to live out their faith and help someone.

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

      The problem with churches is that tax money doesn't flow OUT of them.

      September 26, 2011 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Joker


    A myth? Then who healed my spine?

    Your body

    September 26, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
  14. munkittrick

    GET FUKCED! If you do something stupid, why would you accept something even more stupid to rectify the offense? I think that this is a huge violation of civil rights and personal choices. What if you're atheist? Do you get to sit on a park bench staring angrily at the churches you despise? What if instead of the devil, "god made you do it"? What if your crime IS religious in nature....say stealing a bible?

    September 26, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cornholio

      Enjoy jail, then! You got a real purty mouth.

      September 26, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
  15. tokyo joe

    Give it a chance see if it works before you hoot it down!

    September 26, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim P.


      Forcved religion is anathema to freedom. "Oh, you don't *have* to go to church...but we'll put you in jail if you don't." hardly counts as optional.

      September 26, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ned

      Yeah. Good idea. Give the medicine first, see if it works later. Fail.

      September 26, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • jay zee

      yeah lets brainwash more people with useless christian religion! what if they are jewish? thats a big slap in the face to their religion. dont forget muslim, theist, agnostic or atheists! stupid idea.

      September 26, 2011 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Think before you speak

      @Jim P. The option to go to church is an ADDITIONAL option, as in prior to this the only options were jail time or paying a fine. If you don't want to go to church, then don't. You are then left with the choices you would have had originally. You aren't losing anything or being forced to do something you don't want to. You should try thinking about what you're reading before you freak out and make yourself look like a fool.

      September 27, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
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