Non-violent offenders in Bay Minette, Alabama, are going to face a choice: Either go to jail and pay a fine or go to church every Sunday for one year. This new policy, which begins next week and is being praised as a potential opportunity to turn lives around, is sure to agitate church and state separatists.
The initiative, called Operation Restore Our Community (ROC), will allow misdemeanor offenders to opt for church worship rather than jail. The concept is simple: If they complete the one-year church program, their case will be dismissed.
The program allows for flexibility, as individuals will be able to select the place of worship they wish to attend. Those who choose this option must meet with pastors and police weekly to ensure that they are completing the initiative as planned. So far, 56 area churches are participating in the ROC program.
Some, though, may be wondering why a church program would be offered as an alternative to incarceration. Utilizing churches as a way to address non-violent crime may, some say, provide individuals with support services as well as an environment that is more friendly to assisting them in changing their lives.
During a time when local communities find themselves strapped for cash, this program may offer relief. According to Bay Minette Police Chief Mike Rowland, it costs $75 per inmate, per day to house prisoners. By placing non-violent criminals into community programs, the cost of incarceration may be brought down substantially.
Rowland has already responded to individuals who may have an issue with the religious nature of the punishment offered. He claims that the provision doesn’t violate separation of church and state mandates due to the fact that offenders are able to choose whether they wish to go to jail or worship weekly.
It’s certainly a unique approach. If it works, other communities could follow suit.
Because sex, drugs, rock & roll, and sharing is bad duH
>> JK, but yeah it really doesn't make sense, con-men and thieves would be much better off utilizing their talents on wall st. or in the corporate world, easily paying back their poor victims more than double.
Fraud is a form of theft, which could be considered violent if you stretch it. I should change my response to be, "Why are we imprisoning nonviolent people, who don't steal or damage others property?"
I really think that community service would have been a better alternative to prison, as far as choices go. A year of working in soup kitchens, painting over graffiti, talking to kids about consequences, cleaning litter boxes or walking dogs for the SPCA, maybe. A nonviolent criminal might benefit from caring for his or her fellow sentient beings more than sitting in a church. The thing that bothers me about this is that Rowland is implying that religiosity solves the problem of criminality, and by extension, implies that people who commit crimes are not religious. Atheists are under-represented in U.S. prisons, even when you take into account the fact that atheists comprise a small percentage of citizens in general. The matter deserves constitutional challenge. The fact that there is a choice between prison and church does not mean that separation of church and state is not being violated here, because the alternative to church, prison, would by many be considered far worse. Religion has no place in the criminal justice system, and I can't wait until Rowland's "Restore Our Community" program is challenged in a higher court.
So church can be called a 'community program' and we're supposed to be okay with that? This is just another example of 'faith-based initiatives' that blur the line between church and state, religious and secular. Yes, it saves tax-payer money...but at a cost...equating church attendance with 'good citizenship skills'. It also has the advantage for churches of filling up the pews nicely. Perhaps keeping membership levels higher. But this is a false service, in my mind, because it creates a false choice of 2: Compulsory Church/Compulsory Prison. There are other options...working in the actual community to make a difference in the REAL community is certainly a better option and would show results after the year is up.
When my kids were young and I didn't want an argument, I'd offer 2 choices: the red shirt or the blue shirt, orange juice or milk...to give them the impression they had a choice! That's what this deal reminds me of.