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. CosmicC


    September 26, 2011 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Engineer in Raleigh

    I guess the mooks down in Alabama figure that if TV evangelists and the Republicans they keep electing can use church as a get out of jail free card, they should, too!

    September 26, 2011 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Steve

    In truth, this program is misguided. Counseling one on one having a personal relationship with a straight and narrow person who fears missing the mark would work better. Furthermore, justice is lost. Laws are written to pronounce error and show where error of behavior or thought exists. Justice is the execution of punishment for that error. Sending people to church attendance for commission of a crime is derelict counseling of a nonchristian and diluted justice imposed on anyone. Any ways, fear of walking into perfect justice is the beginng of wisdom. Just because it is cheap does not make it good. The same goes here.

    September 26, 2011 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
  4. WOT

    Al Gore, do you know who you are! A self hater! You are Gay and do not know it!
    Stick with the topic!

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

    If you chose church, is staying awake a requirement?

    September 26, 2011 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Dan

    Alabama towns like this one have no money. None. They're cutting everything from basic essentials to emergency services. Now, because a few politicians want to up their Jesus-cred, this town will be forced to spend money defending a law in court that doesn't have a prayer...pun intended...of winning.

    September 26, 2011 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • b4bigbang

      @Dan: This law won't carry? I wouldn't be so sure. I think the "faith-based initiative" is still intact.

      September 26, 2011 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Marge

    I mean choose. Sorry

    September 26, 2011 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Moonraker

    I choose jail.

    September 26, 2011 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • rachel

      I would too.

      September 26, 2011 at 10:38 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Moonraker

    Huh? What are you talking about? Your post makes no sense. I'm assuming that you're a high school drop out, right?

    September 26, 2011 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • luigi

      Moonraker, huh yourself. Who were you addressing?

      September 27, 2011 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
  10. Cogito

    Say What?!?!?!

    September 26, 2011 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse |
  11. maniacmudd

    well ya wont hafta go to jail but you will still have to put these knee pads on...

    September 26, 2011 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
  12. fred

    ....only n merika.

    September 26, 2011 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • FishOnTheMoon

      And some Middle East countries.

      September 26, 2011 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
  13. maniacmudd

    this poster "wot", has gay issues...just come out of the closet scat boy.....

    September 26, 2011 at 10:34 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Freddie

    This is the problem with the tea baggers and all other religious zealots. Why can't they just believe in whatever they believe in and leave others the heck alone. Stop trying to convert everyone to your religion. These people think that you are immoral if you do not believe in their God. Scary. In the Bible belt they are ALWAYS trying to push their boundaries further and further into everyones business.

    September 26, 2011 at 10:47 pm | Report abuse |
  15. immobee

    Psalms 83:18

    September 26, 2011 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
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