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. Chris

    Well, the person who done the crime has a choice, jail, church, or pay a fine. If the person chose jail, got out, then a year later done the crime again and it affected ur life in some way, I'm sure you had wished he/she went to church to maybe get rid of those bad habits ie. Drinking and driving, illegal drugs, thieves, the list goes on. It's just another option for the person to use, if the individual does not believe in going to church they can pay a fine or go to jail. What's wrong if a person decides to make a change in there life for the better. For those who say just bulldoze the south down are probably the liberals who are screwing this country up. I will pray for all of you, have a blessed day especially you Kyle, I'm sad to see that you feel that way.

    September 28, 2011 at 1:18 am |
    • HellBent

      What's wrong with it? Have you never actually read the Consti.tution, or do you just not believe it should apply to people who are different than you?

      Replace Church with Mosque and tell me that your response is the same.

      September 28, 2011 at 2:06 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      Going to church isn't going to stop them from re-offending. Churches are full of criminals who attend to try to look good but yet are horrible people...they'd steal from the collection plate in a heartbeat.
      Ever heard of something called separation of church and state? Obama needs to veto Alabama's judges and enforce it!

      September 28, 2011 at 4:30 am |
  2. Karin

    I am seriously considering the best anecdote would be to ship these religious nut jobs to Iraq. So they can experience forced religion!
    OK, I am obviously day dreaming here. But, it would be nice to have at the very least one year without this mumbo jumbo crap.

    September 28, 2011 at 1:09 am |
    • Chris

      Hey Karin, forced religion in Iraq, they have a choice as well. Been there done that, got the tshirt.

      September 28, 2011 at 1:26 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      @Chris: come out from under the rock! You have already made yourself look uneducated and your statement here continues to prove it. If those people weren't being forced women would be treated better and they wouldn't be living in an oppressed society.

      September 28, 2011 at 4:39 am |
  3. TopCat

    so what about someone passing through from another religion. they face state punishment while those claiming
    christian are let free to go to church? what country can i move to that has separation of church and state?

    September 28, 2011 at 12:19 am |
    • Possessor of WAY more truth than you, ha ha ha

      This country supposedly has it, but the Confederacy is still about 400 years behind. Only in the South. Sheesh.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:51 am |
  4. Trystan

    I just thought of a worse punishment. It involves Rosie O'Donnell and Oprah Winfrey. And a nuru gel massage.

    September 27, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
  5. Felicia King

    Just make sure they sit up front in the first pew and they're there sunday morning, sunday evening, wednesday evening, and any night of soul winning.

    September 27, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
  6. Trystan

    If a criminal commits a non-violent crime against one of the members of the church, and the criminal decides to go to church, then what? I'm not saying it's intentional. Just a coincidence.

    "Oh, fancy that, I didn't know you went to this church. I was just sentenced to come here for my crime of touching myself outside of your bathroom window. Praise Jesus!"

    September 27, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
  7. Bill

    Oh, and if the ultimatum was "go to mosque or go to jail" or "go to buddhist temple or go to jail" you know the response to this would be radically different.

    September 27, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
    • John Richardson


      September 27, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
    • Bob Smith

      Yes, that would get their attention.
      But they still wouldn't be able to face the separation of church and state even as they go crazy over it.
      They'd pretend the issue is something else entirely. They cannot face the truth.

      September 27, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
    • Decide

      It's called choice. They can Decide to pick jail or Church. Two options, it's quite simple. No, if the options were otherwise then so be it, there should be no problem at all. It doesn't matter what type of religious service they were offered to attend instead of jail – it's a CHOICE, Church or jail. If they don't like the CHOICE then they can sit it out in jail – – – they shouldn't be given a CHOICE at all, they are CRIMINALS!! Everyone needs to get over how the poor, little criminal (Sad music) being given options. When you committ a crime then your option is to do the time. If you get a chance to do something else you should count your blessings.

      September 28, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
  8. Bill

    It displeases me when redneck judges overstep the separation of church and state to use my tax dollars to promote a faith I don't believe in.

    September 27, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
    • ZZeyn

      I think time has come for them to pay their fair share of taxes to help our economy if this can actually happen!

      September 27, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
  9. ZZeyn

    Wow – I thought I was living in a SECULAR country!

    September 27, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
  10. Kyle

    I most certainly would choose prison. Already wasted over 20 years of my life in church believing in a book that is a lie.

    September 27, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
  11. Mormons-R-Cult

    Good for them, waiting is not a requirement for anything.

    September 27, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
  12. Jeana

    I'll take the time for my crime, thank you.....this seems like a form of emotional corporal punishment!

    September 27, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
  13. Bo

    ======================================= THESE PEOPLE HAVE A CHOICE ===============================================================

    September 27, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • Bob Smith

      So if I come over to your house and hold a gun to your head and tell you that you have a choice between death or slavery, you'd be okay with that? Great. What's your address?

      September 27, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
  14. Bo

    ==================================================================== REALLY! YOU WOULD THINK FROM A LOT OF THESE POSTS THAT THESE PEOPLE HAD NO CHOICE!........THEY HAVE A CHOICE!.......... THEY HAVE A CHOICE!..............THEY HAVE A CHOICE...............THEY HAVE A CHOICE!.......THEY HAVE A COICE!..........THEY HAVE A CHOICE! how many times must you be told, THEY HAVE A CHOICE! ===========================================================

    September 27, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Time for your meds, Bo.

      September 27, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
    • *frank*

      Somebody whose religious beliefs or lack thereof would allow them in good conscience to attend a xtian church are offered an option that people whose religious beliefs or lack thereof don't allow them in good conscience to take are not.
      This is thus not equal treatment; it is on its face 100% based on religion; and it is 100% a "state action" per US Supreme Court case law. Thus, it violates the Consti.tution.
      That's pretty much it...

      September 27, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
    • Bob Smith

      They DON'T have a choice. This is bald-faced COERCION and is HIGHLY ILLEGAL. A felony, no less. And being done by a judge just makes it all the worse a crime. Crime under color of law is one of the largest areas of corruption in our country.

      September 27, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
  15. Eric Holder is dropping the ball again

    That judge is a CRIMINAL who needs to be arrested, charged, convicted, and DISBARRED IMMEDIATELY!

    Blatant malfeasance like this just makes my blood boil. The DOJ had better do something about this judge and I mean right now!

    September 27, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
  16. john

    I like this as a punishment for more non serious crimes but I'd like it to be extended to more things than just a church service. How about doing volunteer, charitable or community service for a year? I think things like that would be more beneficial, not only to the individual, but to the community as a whole.

    September 27, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
    • John Richardson

      That's called community service and it is a sentencing staple in civilized areas of the country.

      September 27, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  17. GodlessHeathen

    Any church or do they pick? If I were say a Pagan and wanted to sit in a park and talk to a bush or tree would that count or does it require a talking snake to make it legit?

    September 27, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • Church of Suicidal

      Only if it was a burning bush.

      September 28, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
  18. HotAirAce

    We should start a lottery on how long it will take to declare this unconstitutional. If I lived anywhere near Alabama, I'd be very tempted to get arrested just to test the law, in the full confidence that these so-called judges would be looking very foolish, very quickly.

    September 27, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • Kyle

      I lived in Alabama for some time. I can see why people attend church as often as possible. There's nothing else to do. I really wish they'd bulldoze the whole state and push it into Mexico where it belongs.

      September 27, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      @Kyle, wouldn't that damage 1 or 2 other states along the way?

      September 27, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
    • Kyle

      Yes. It would take out Mississippi, Louisiana, and a good portion of Texas. None of which would be sorely missed by the majority of people.

      September 27, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
  19. Dave Davis

    This was intended for "Castiel"

    September 27, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  20. Dave Davis

    And I will sing "DIXIE" til ya vomit, Lady.

    September 27, 2011 at 5:22 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.