Jesus or jail? Alabama town offers options for serving time
An Alabama town is offering low level crimals a choice - Jesus or jail.
September 27th, 2011
10:18 AM ET

Jesus or jail? Alabama town offers options for serving time

(CNN)–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.

Read the full story from CNN's This Just In.
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Bible • Church and state

soundoff (226 Responses)
  1. John Richardson

    Lots of these non-violent "crimes" shouldn't be crimes and the state should never be sending people to church. The people behind this should be in jail themselves.

    September 27, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • JA

      If you actually read the article, it says they have the choice to serve time, pay a fine or go to church .

      September 27, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • John Richardson

      I did read the article and that doesn't make it any better. Sending people to church absolutely should not be an option.

      September 27, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • Zoe Jean

      I agree John, the authors of this insane law should be in jail, what an ignorant response to a secular problem. Jail (we have too many people incarcerated now) or church should not be options; I'm a strong believer of community service. Shoot, some of the meanest people I know claim they are "Christian".

      September 27, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • Daniel Ferguson

      Another point is it's not about the criminal, it's all about $$$$ as the U.S. prison system as became a state funding source 9or actually a business for the state) these days to keep people in prison for such thing as smoking weed, and minor offenses. While hard crimes are getting off with less served time and normal a repeat of offense in most cases.

      September 27, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • Hasa Diga Eebowai

      How about they take a science or math class instead of church. I wonder what is better for the future of this country.

      September 28, 2011 at 11:41 am |
  2. Anton LaVey

    Are we really surprised what region this absurd law is coming out of?

    September 27, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
  3. I'm The Best!

    I wonder if you get this offer even if your an atheist.
    I also wonder if you would be allowed to sleep through the ceremonies or if you have to actually pay attention to them.

    If I could sleep through them all then I don't think I'd mind. And I would definitely be the worst dressed one there if I was forced to go.

    September 27, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • Junior

      Love it!

      September 27, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • Trystan

      I could use the time to play angry birds.

      September 27, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
    • Hasa Diga Eebowai

      Angry birds ... YES!

      September 28, 2011 at 11:59 am |
  4. David

    Well now I know where to go to start my crime spree!!!

    September 27, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  5. Toby

    I still cannot fathom a nation that is the most advanced, most wealthy, most powerful nation in the history of civilization and STILL believes in this childish nonsense. I don't know what's more unbelievable; a half man, half god who dies and comes back to life and rises into the sky just for ME, or the fact that millions of otherwise educated people believe this tripe. Peace.

    September 27, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • Junior

      Well put Toby!

      September 27, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      > I still cannot fathom a nation that is the most advanced,

      The US isn't.

      > most wealthy,

      The US isn't.

      > most powerful nation in the history of civilization

      If you define power by military strength

      > and STILL believes in this childish nonsense. I don't know what's more unbelievable; a half man, half god who dies and comes back to life and rises into the sky just for ME, or the fact that millions of otherwise educated people believe this tripe. Peace.


      September 27, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • Trystan

      The Bobinator

      "The US isn't."

      Uh, yeah, it is. You must be from Iran or North Korea. Keep believing propaganda.

      "The US isn't."

      Let me guess, a technicality based on the population, right? The world economy depends on the US.

      "If you define power by military strength"

      And the most influential at every turn.

      Back to North Korea or Iran or whatever with you.

      September 27, 2011 at 11:18 pm |
  6. Nonimus

    One question. What are the choices for Priests/Preachers/Pastors?

    September 27, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • claybigsby

      Jail, Death, or flee to Europe and be protected by the pope.

      September 27, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  7. Doc Vestibule

    Back in the day, Judges would says "Jail or the Army".
    In the army, you were still in a tightly controlled, highly disciplined environment (like jail) – but at least you'd get some useful skills out of it.
    What useful skills does one get from attending Church on sunday?

    All it does is teach that a facade of piety is useful.

    September 27, 2011 at 11:45 am |
  8. kimsland

    I personally feel it would be wrong to push anyone into church for any reason what so ever.
    But at least children will feel if they do something wrong they may be punished and sent to church, so that idea will help a little.

    The idea is presently on hold by the way

    September 27, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • As if

      As if the option to go to Church is so awful, certainly some people may think so and that's their right. No one would be 'pushing' them into Church – it's a choice, which they should be grateful to have! If they don't want to go to Church then they can sit their happy selves in jail where they belong!

      September 27, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  9. hippypoet

    separation of church and state...need i say more!

    September 27, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • Separation

      Two separate choices.....choose to attend Church service or sit in jail and do the time. The criminal should be grateful he/she even gets an option!

      September 27, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • Trystan

      There isn't a god, so why is church even an option? If god actually existed, then I'd understand.

      September 27, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
  10. Jeebus gonna fix dem criminils!

    Putting aside the obvious unconstitutionality of this absurd law, do any of these idiots actually believe that a bit of "churchin" is going to change anything? Have they not noticed that they have both high church attendance and high crime rates? Has anyone noticed that the secular democracies with high rates of irreligion have the lowest crime rates?

    September 27, 2011 at 11:30 am |
    • Not a problem

      This is really not a problem. If they don't want to do go to Church then they can do what they were supposed to do to begin with – do the time!

      September 27, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  11. Uncouth Swain

    Eh...not sure how I feel on this. Since there is an option of not going I guess it's not too bad but still.

    September 27, 2011 at 11:15 am |
  12. Les

    Is there an archive for comments? Since last night CNN has removed 22+ pages of comments on this subject.

    September 27, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • Nonimus

      you might be looking for this:

      September 27, 2011 at 11:43 am |
  13. JohnQuest

    Still a prison

    September 27, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • Not

      It's not really, but some people might think so. Regardless, the criminal is supposed to do time so having any option otherwise is a blessing.

      September 27, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  14. GSA

    I would def. take the church. It's a lot easier to fight off a preist than it is to fight off big bubba in jail.

    September 27, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • Castiel

      You'll be getting on your knees on way or the other – it's just up to you what *for*.

      September 27, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  15. Lale

    So this town has effectively turned Church and State into Siamese twins.

    September 27, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • DamianKnight

      Not at all. The court is, by no means, compelling you to go to church. It's an option.

      The only thing I believe should be done, is ensuring that all religious faiths are included. If you want to go to a Muslim service, by all means. If you want to go to a Jewish service, more power to you. Etc, etc.

      September 27, 2011 at 11:10 am |
    • J.W

      Yeah it says that no other religions have worship in that town. They could probably bus them somewhere else though.

      September 27, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • ThinkForYourself

      Maybe someone should formally establish a religion in the town – say, the Church of the Fourth Down. Meets on Sunday's. NFL Rule Book is the sacred text. Substi.tute wings for bread and beer for wine. You're sure to establish a regular congregation and get to enjoy all of the tax benefits that come with having your house declared a church. Who wouldn't want tax deductible charitable contributions to pay for their cable bill?

      September 27, 2011 at 11:26 am |
    • Reverend Billy Bob, Church of the Fourth Down

      The Church of the Fourth Down has long been established, my good friend! Have you not noticed how often people praise God and Jesus on NFL Sundays?

      "Jesus! What a great pass!"

      "God, the referee is a total idiot!"

      "Christ, he fumbled the damn ball!"

      Millions already have more faith and belief in football than Jesus, my son.

      September 27, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • Nonimus

      "Millions already have more faith and belief in football than Jesus, my son."

      Football doesn't require faith, it is real.

      September 27, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • David Johnson

      Yes. I think that's the real objective here. Evangelicals want to incorporate religion into the judicial system.

      What I would find hard, would be having to "check in" with a pastor. It would be like checking in with the village idiot.


      September 27, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
    • Pick

      They can pick an option – Church and state are not being 'forced' together. If they don't want to pick Church then they can pick jail – which is what they were supposed to do to begin with!

      September 27, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  16. N.Shaipiro

    SICK !!
    Why not community service?

    September 27, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  17. SeanNJ

    As long as they didn't expect me to take it seriously, or even be respectful, I might go that route.

    Naaaaaaaah. F%#* it. I'd rather pay the fine.

    September 27, 2011 at 10:43 am |
  18. John Dale

    So all the criminals that already go to cult meetings on a Sunday get off scot-free then?

    How glad am I that I don't live in such an astoundingly ignorant town.

    September 27, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • Just Quoting Jesus


      October 6, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  19. myweightinwords

    I'm not sure how this is allowable, considering.

    September 27, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • Colin

      It's not. It will be temporarily injuncted at the first Federal Court challange and a permanent injunction won't even be needed, a state will drop the program.

      Sorry, Jesus, we have a little thing called Church-State separation. You can now go back to not existing in peace.

      September 27, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • J.W

      Maybe no one will challenge it. They may all really like it.

      September 27, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • DamianKnight

      I wouldn't challenge it, even if it was of a faith different than my own. Nobody is requiring them to participate, merely attend.

      So let's see, pay a fine, serve time or spend one hour each Sunday listening to some old guy talk. Count me in for the hour each Sunday. Of course, the obvious option is...don't commit crimes and the whole thing is moot.

      September 27, 2011 at 11:34 am |
  20. Colin

    Hmmm, physical prison or mental prison? Tough choice.

    September 27, 2011 at 10:20 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.