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. jo an

    I aay...put them in a 'corner' with DVDs on spirituality...all kinds of stuff. led by facilitator....if they don't want to go to CHURCH...I had to go to a 12 step program to deal with being brought us a Southern Baptist....Their plan of Salvation is very evil...May as well read the Hunger Gamers!!

    September 26, 2011 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
  2. jo an

    I say...put them in a 'corner' with DVDs on spirituality...all kinds of stuff. led by facilitator....if they don't want to go to CHURCH...I had to go to a 12 step program to deal with being brought us a Southern Baptist....Their plan of Salvation is very evil...May as well read the Hunger Gamers!!

    September 26, 2011 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chadent

      What is the Southern Baptist plan of salvation that is so evil? Could you explain it?

      September 26, 2011 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • wowsuchstupidity

      @Chadent – I can only share what I know of growing up Southern Baptist in Southeast Texas. I was lucky enough to attend a church with a very kind and intelligent pastor. He would never be allowed to be a Southern Baptist pastor nowadays – too much compassion and caring and not enough pacing around with a microphone repeating the same empty phrases over and over. Even in the early '80's he was run out of our church for inviting black people to services. And also they felt he preached too much about love and too little about sin. (My mom was the church secretary and this is not paraphrasing – this was actually recorded in the meeting where they decided to remove him as pastor.)

      September 26, 2011 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • WiserThanEwe (not a sheep)

      I too grew up attending a southern baptist church. I'm actually glad I did so, because it opened my eyes to the hatred and bigotry that is christianity. It's rather ironic because I've learned that the only ones worth hating are the haters themselves. Fortunately, I rejected all that silly mythology at a young and never subjected my children to it.

      September 26, 2011 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Lee Oates

    You got to be kidding. A Christian "Morality Police", sort of like a Christian version of Sharia law. But I guess thats ok when its "Christian" not Muslim.

    September 26, 2011 at 11:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • will

      Um... these are people that have broken criminal law, not Christian law...are you advocating no laws?

      September 26, 2011 at 11:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Devil in the Detials

      Can't agree more...

      September 26, 2011 at 11:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      @will – Correct, they have broken criminal law. If a kid skips Sunday School we don't send him to juvie. It makes no sense to send criminals to church for punishment for civil crimes...they should pay their dues in civil manners i.e. jail or fines.

      September 27, 2011 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
  4. wilbur

    I could go dressed up nice. Make good first impressions at Church for a few weeks. I would go to P entacostal...they speak in tongues there. It tends to be lively. I am white. I would definitely pick a black church. I would go on acid or shrooms or at least weed and booze. I would start supplying the Parish. Marketing 101.

    September 26, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
  5. sj

    Separation of church and state?

    September 26, 2011 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
  6. voicomp

    So, if I go to a midnight mass, a 9 AM service somewhere else, a noon service at a third church and find a 6Pm at a fourth, can I be done in 13 weks?

    September 26, 2011 at 11:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amy

      Unfortunately, there aren't that many churches in Bay Minette.

      September 26, 2011 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ron

    Wouldn't be better to just hold a gun to their head and say "pray to Jesus or we kill you!". That's what the Taliban did for Islam.

    September 26, 2011 at 11:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • WiserThanEwe (not a sheep)

      more like – get buggered at a church or in jail. your choice. (Choose the church. Your cellmate won't give you candy.)

      September 26, 2011 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ronald Raygun

    isnt this what muslims do?

    September 26, 2011 at 11:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Captive Audience

      Close. I suppose in this case they aren't going to kill you but give it time.

      September 26, 2011 at 11:32 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Affuman

    If we were reading a report about another country that forced people convicted of a 'crime' to go a Mosque, Hindu Temple, or whatever, we'd be up in arms. Just sayin'....

    September 26, 2011 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jo

      Pretty sure its not something that their "forcing" GO TO JAIL if you have a problem with it.. People on here need to WAKE UP & GROW UP! & if your something other than a Christian..go to jail then! Why should America support Hinduism or anything other than what the Bible says..?! ONE NATION UNDER GOD!! Duh! But God made this world and everyone who hates & doesn't believe.. & still Loves each and everyone of us. May God Bless you all who don't believe & against everything that has to do with Him.

      September 26, 2011 at 11:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dr.K.

      Jo, you must surely be a troll. I can't imagine the walking cartoon character that would honestly spout that nonsense.

      September 27, 2011 at 12:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      @Jo- You're either a troll or one of the stupidest human beings to ever learn how to use a computer. Well done!

      September 27, 2011 at 1:36 am | Report abuse |
  10. Klaark

    My guess is a Mosque or a Synagog wouldn't be allowed in a place like this. I hope this backfires horribly.

    September 26, 2011 at 11:24 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Spiffy

    How is religion going to change people's ways when the huge majority of people already in jail are members of a particular faith?

    September 26, 2011 at 11:25 pm | Report abuse |
  12. solowd

    the division in this country is bizarre

    there's plenty of normal, thoughtful people...

    and then down south, there are the people who think a law like this is okay

    September 26, 2011 at 11:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • what?!

      Oh, yes. All of the normal people live in the North. Um, yeah. He's my 2 cents. I am from the North, now living in the South, and I am a Christian. I do not think this program is a good idea because people should be allowed to follow Jesus without being strong armed into it. People will say that these criminals are not being forced but when it's either jail time+ a record or church time+ no record, what are you going to choose? I can see that someone thought that this was a good idea but I think they missed the mark a bit. There is absolutely no reason to diss on Christians or the South. The same way you would expect to be treated, that is how you treat others.

      September 27, 2011 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
  13. Chainyanker

    And what if you are a Muslim, Jew or Buddhist are you forced to go to a Christian school if the other options are not for you? Come on ACLU sue these religious bigots.

    September 26, 2011 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. 500 Questions

    Can atheists just go to college? Or the library?

    September 26, 2011 at 11:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      Most genius comment yet! 🙂 Atheists have to work out math problems for two hours every Sunday. I love math, wouldn't be a problem lol

      September 27, 2011 at 1:38 am | Report abuse |
  15. Aguy

    ummm... jail... church in Alabama.... jail.... church in Alabama. Tough call.

    September 26, 2011 at 11:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • WiserThanEwe (not a sheep)

      The se.x is better in church, unless you're over 12.

      September 26, 2011 at 11:53 pm | Report abuse |
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