Alabama Judge Gives Criminals Choice: Go to Jail or Go to Church

Program is only for non-violent, misdemeanor offenders

By Greg Wilson
|  Friday, Sep 23, 2011  |  Updated 3:15 PM CDT
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When the gavel comes down in a small Alabama town, the defendant gets to choose: jail or church.

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A small-town judge in Alabama is giving non-violent offenders a choice at sentencing: go to jail or go to church.

Under a program dubbed "Operation Restore Our Community," the city judge in Bay Minette lets misdemeanor offenders serve time and pay a fine or go to church every Sunday for a year, according to WKRG.com.

If offenders choose church, they can pick the place of worship as long as they check in weekly with the pastor and police. After a year of Sundays in the pew, the offender's case will be dismissed.

Bay Minette Police Chief Mike Rowland says the program could change the lives of people heading down the wrong path. So far, 56 churches are participating. Rowland said the program is Constitutional because offenders get to choose between jail and church.

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