T Nation

Church or Jail Program



A Baldwin County city is not letting critics stop it from letting non-violent offenders choose between church or jail.

City leaders are seeking guidance from Alabama's top attorney.

The mayor of Bay Minette asked the city council Monday to pass a resolution asking the attorney general to review the legality of the proposed program.

However, not all the council members are on board with the mayor's recommendation to fight for the program.

Bay Minette Police Chief Michael Rowland's proposal would give first time, non-violent criminal offenders a choice: serve their sentence behind bars, or go to to church for a year.

But, several civil rights groups have called the initiative an unconstitutional violation of the separation of church and state.

Mayor Jamie Tillery asked the city council to get a legal opinion from the state attorney general before starting the program.

She supports it.


I don't like it, either. They did the crime, they can do the time. If they find God in the meantime, I'm obviously all about that. But it doesn't negate their debt to society. If they've truly found God, they will accept their yoke and perhaps try to help others doing time alongside them. The last thing I want is a bunch of opportunists claiming Christ one day, and back on the street, selling crack the next.


Legally, I don't see the problem. Apparently it isn't the only option, as the article states.


"Mayor Tillery has also said offenders would have other options besides church, like community service."

Yeah, as long as there is "secular" option (and perhaps non-christian ones as well?), I don't see any issues with it legally ('course, I'm no lawyer). Like Sloth though, I'd like to see a little more "payment to society" as it were. I think coupling this with community service might be an option.

That said, I do like thinking outside the box. The US has too many people in jail. I remember reading it was 1% of the population some time ago... We need to look for other options. I'd like to see how this works in this town. It will also be interesting to see who they are "targeting" with these options.


I am not for using Church as punishment. I think that is asinine. It shouldn't be an option, it shouldn't even be a suggestion.
I am all for people finding Jesus, but I am not for shoving him in people's faces saying "See Him, yet?"
Now if churches want to offer programs that people voluntarily join and the court accepts that, that's fine with me, but I am not in favor of the court forcing church on anybody.
And to your thought that any faith will do, is clearly not the intention here.


Jail sucks, leave them there. If they don't feel any pain for what they have done, they will not learn their lesson.


How many would choose community service over church? I'm guessing going to chuch one hour a week for a year would sound like a much easier option.

I don't know much about Alabama, but how many options other than Christianity even exist in this community (Baldwin County)?


Church Christine, big time, not many things worse than cleaning up a park, a highway, graffiti in the rain, heat, or snow.


I answered my own question.

They have 7 Buddhists and 1,380,121 Southern Baptists.


Opps: I misread that. I think that the numbers I cited are for Alabama as a whole.

I wonder if those 7 Buddhists are anywhere near Baldwin County.


Yes we have to many people in jail for bullshit victimless crimes like drugs. If they are in jail for possession or use, they should be out, neither in church (unless they want to be) ir in jail.


This makes NO sense. Considering the population, many of the people in jail probably already did go to Church before they ended up in jail.

When I went to Church, I saw kids at the Church engaging in every sort of behavior that you'd expect other kids to. Some did drugs, some slept with each other, some got each other pregnant, some didn't do any of those things, some graduated with top grades from the top universities in the area, some didn't get past 10th grade, some waiting until marriage to have sex, some went to jail, and everyone prayed for all of the people and situations that I just mentioned.

There is no evidence that Church is useful in preventing re-offense. None. I think the only program I've seen proven to lessened re-offense was the program where prisoners trained dogs.


Correct. But I tell you this, I would take the church option if presented.


Anyone would.

Church once a week > Community Service > Jail

It really isn't much of a choice.


Well, it's church for a year. Not sure how that compares to the length of the typical community service option. I mean, if the community service is only a month or two...


What are the chances this is actually constitutional?


I haven't seen anything to suggest it isn't.



The city/county where this is being attempted will have to defend it in court should it pass.

This will take tons of money in legal fees.


So I think the issue here is a lack of concern about whether or not the proposed idea is useful in preventing re-offense. How come that was skipped right over and people are instead concentrating on whether or not it's constitutional? If the right thought-process was in place to begin with, this idea wouldn't have made it past the drawing board.


They should cancel all the options.




Of course, given that there are not many non-Christians, this won't come up much, will it?

As an aside, there is a nice shul in Mobile, not far away at all.

This is perfectly legal, provided a secular option is permitted.