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.
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Filed under: Bible • Church and state

soundoff (226 Responses)
  1. ItsHopeless

    Actually I think this is perfect... Murderers can get executed, Rapists can get castrated, Abusers can be whipped, and Thieves, Liars, and Cheats can.... go to church! I've always been a proponent of like punishments fitting like crimes. 😉


    September 27, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
  2. JF

    I guess this town assumes that most crimes are committed by people of faith?

    September 27, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • A little more thought

      Giving a little more thought to this idea, it's not that they think people of faith are more likely to commit crimes – it's that they think if those who commit crimes take the opportunity to go to Church and gain faith then they will most likely turn their lives around and stop committing crimes.

      September 27, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  3. Bo

    My first thought was, as some may call it: "seperation of church and stae", but it is a choice. The "found guilty" person can choose jail. I'm presumming that if another religion moved into the area it too would become a choice. If my church were in that town, the party could also have a free meal. We have potluck each week, so he/she would be welcome–no potluck dish donation required.

    September 27, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      I am not a lawyer but I think an objective court would say that for many (atheists, non-christian believers) there is no choice, and therefore a certain segment of society was being treated differently, therefore unconstitutionally.

      September 27, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
  4. Ryan

    what about those priest who abuse boys...

    September 27, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • Not really...

      Certainly hope that little boys aren't the ones committing crimes...therefore, this doesn't apply. It's grown men/women who will be given the opportunity to attend Church – once per week; not overnight stays in the backroom.

      September 27, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • No priests

      Christians do not have priests like the Catholic church does. That's irrelevant anyway, the criminals being offered this option are adults, maybe older adolescents.

      September 27, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • Dave Davis

      What is it about Liberals' definite obsession about preists and "little boys"? You gentle folk think often and much on this stuff, don't you? Also, this type thing does work. These and similar programs have existed here in Missouri for quite some time. We have an ex-drug-dealer who is now a faithful Christian in our Church. Takes the burden off the State and county.

      September 27, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • Really?

      Ah... you seem confused. Catholics are Christians too.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:26 am |
  5. Adam

    Absurd. We count as appropriate punishment for a crime the ability to sit and pretend to know things one does not know?

    It is these crimes against honesty, humility, and the very prospect of human cooperation that should be punished in the first place!

    Stop lying to yourself and to your children.

    September 27, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • RollingHillz

      And slapping someone on the hand with small fine is making such a bigger difference....? Don't think so...

      September 27, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  6. HeavenSent

    I'm just shaking my head. Are non-believers so stupid that they really don't know what Jesus' teaches or is it shear laziness and arrogance that keeps you stuck and miserable?


    September 27, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • pat


      September 27, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • iamsmarter

      I think that believing in a godly being is truely lazy.. Why dont you hit some real books and learn about something useful.. Like science...

      September 27, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • claybigsby

      Dont feed this troll.....move along.

      September 27, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Christian?

      It's not Christian-like to call non-believers "stupid". Non-believers may be ignorant – not stupid (look up the definition, they are not the same) – about Jesus, but if you want to open the door to share with them about God's love then calling them names isn't going to give an opportunity.

      September 27, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I love it. HS, try to figure out the difference between "sheer" and "shear" before you call anyone else stupid.

      September 27, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • Trystan

      Non-believers tend to know more about the teachings of jesus than believers, slick. We do our research. Christians are more likely to just graze on the grass and let some guy with a stick push them along wherever he feels like sending them. Unfortunately, it's rarely over a cliff.

      September 27, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      christian..ignorant of what ? Can you tell us what the bible teaches that was totally unknown to the human race prior to its arrival?

      September 27, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      heavensent..careful you are also an unbeliever....you do not believe in Thor ?? he has a hammer...oh oh Jesus was also nailed if I remember the story... coincidence ?.

      September 27, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
    • Church of Suicidal

      Your misspelling of "sheer" is appropriate, since you are a sheep.

      September 28, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  7. pat

    Church is jail for the mind.

    September 27, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • iamsmarter

      Pat jesus truely does heal. I just know that he will have a positive influence on all those bad people. Those horrible law breakers. Those sinners.. Those.. Well I think you can see my sarcasm here

      September 27, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  8. Anon

    Christians are screwed up in the head.

    September 27, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  9. tallulah13

    I find it appalling that they consider this even an option. It's simply telling those who break laws - and those who are victims of crime - that the artificial piety of the town leaders is more important than actual justice.

    September 27, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
  10. ___.__

    When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.

    September 27, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • Cow

      You need to read more.

      September 27, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • ZZeyn

      Where is the 'like' button?

      September 27, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
  11. KM

    Are we sure this is the 21st century? Did Alabama miss the update?

    September 27, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  12. MaybeAgnosticMaybeNot

    Any church? I wonder if the Church of Satan has a church nearby.

    September 27, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • Thia

      Isn't the Church of Satan another denomination within Christianity? It has the same pantheon of gods, saints, etc. The message is obviously a little different, but one could make that same argument about Baptists and Catholics.

      September 27, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • No

      No, the only thing satan has to do with Christianity is that he is the enemy....and he is assured to lose.

      September 27, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
  13. James


    September 27, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
  14. Dr.K.

    Religion has no demonstrated relationship to crime, but education does (for example, just look at Alabama – extremely religious, high crime rates, deplorable education record). Why not instead give criminals the option of enrolling in a community college course on critical thinking, civic responsibility, political science, etc.? Maybe the judge. could enroll too....

    September 27, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • claybigsby

      I wouldn't say Illinois has a deplorable education record, yet the crime rate in cook county is high...your theory has holes.

      September 27, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  15. Doc Vestibule

    When I was a young man, I was sentenced by an astute judge to community service at the local narcotics anonymous.
    I went in each day, did my work with nary a word save for "yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir" and then went out and got wrecked.
    When I was ready to clean up, I did it on my own terms.
    You can't sentence people to personal growth – attempst to do so at best results in disinterested obedience.

    September 27, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • Valid

      Good point. Many people refuse to change their ways....but how can they know that there is another source willing to help them unless they are presented the opportunity? An offer like this isn't really negative, in fact, it's quite generous. It is a choice – if they'd prefer not to then they can sit and do the time for their crime.

      September 27, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • @Doc Vestibule

      A facet of human nature that prosthelytizing religions seem to have missed is that unsolicited advice is met at best with disinterest – and most often with resentment.

      September 27, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
  16. LisaP

    Does anyone else see an issue with seperation between church and state??? I understand the concept, rehabilitation versus incarceration, but what about people who are not affiliated with the Christian services around them? Won't they be unfairly and more harshly punished by paying a fine/serving jail time, simply because their brand of religion was not available? And what about an atheist criminal? This seems dicriminatory and wrong. They should do community service once a week for a year. Then, at least, they can give back to the community they stole from.

    September 27, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • Dr.K.

      Yes, this is clearly a violation of the First Amendment. No doubt whatsoever.

      September 27, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • Thia

      What is the convict is a wiccan? Can they join a local coven?

      September 27, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • Choice

      Criminals shouldn't be allowed choice. So, if they are offered any opportunity they should be thankful for it. If it were a Muslim group and a Christian was offered the choice to go to their Muslim service instead of jail time, then the Christian could just say no and take the jail time – and that's simply too bad for them! They shouldn't have committed the crime to begin with. Why should anyone be sad that they would have to do the jail time that they should be doing in the first place?? Is it unfair? Awe, poor things....don't do the crime if you can't do the time.

      September 27, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • ThinkForYourself

      " Is it unfair?"

      -Well, yes. It's also unconsti.tutional. I'm amazed at the amount of people here that think it's really no big deal to violate fellow Americans' most basic rights.

      September 27, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
  17. Valerie

    I live 30 minutes from Bay Minette. Beautiful area.

    September 27, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • Dave Davis

      God bless America, my home sweet home. Yes the South is beautiful. If these terrible haters could only see.....

      September 27, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  18. Answer

    Allowing such soft punishment for soft crimes won't prevent them further. It's better to have these people serve in areas that have had natural disasters happen and then let these people work for their punishment. Two square meals with no pay. Til their sentence time is done. It's a better use of resources.

    September 27, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  19. prognosis

    It would be funny if this program resulted in a bunch of churches getting robbed.

    September 27, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • Yoda

      Not if anything to say about it I have

      September 27, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  20. Castiel

    Paddle faster...I hear banjo music

    September 27, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • Dave Davis

      God bless Dixie Land! Eat yer hearts out, Liberals! God bless America, my Home sweet Home!

      September 27, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • Dave Davis

      Oh, by the way, I LOVE Banjo music!

      September 27, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
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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.