What do you think? Personally ~ I love this idea! Giving non-violent offenders a choice to reintegrate into the community with an established support system or to serve time incarcerated offers a choice to people. This form of program has been going on for several years in various locations already without challenge.
Share your thoughts below.
Jesus or jail sentencing program delayed as Bay Minette weighs legal issues
Published: Monday, September 26, 2011, 7:25 PM Updated: Monday, September 26, 2011, 7:34 PM
By Kim Lanier, Press-Register
BAY MINETTE, Alabama — Implementation of a church-based alternative sentencing plan in Bay Minette that has drawn national attention will be delayed for several weeks while lawyers give it another once-over to make sure there are no legal issues, according to the Police Chief Michael Rowland.
On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama sent a letter to city leaders demanding an immediate end to the program that they say “flagrantly” violates the state and U.S. constitutions regarding separation of church and state. The letter also requested public records on the program’s development and creation.
“It’s good to hear they are delaying implementation,” said Alabama ACLU executive director Olivia Turner.
Chief still believes the program will start in October
Originally slated to begin today, the faith-based “Restore Our Community” program, the brain-child of area church leaders, offers first-time, nonviolent offenders appearing in Bay Minette Municipal Court the option of attending the house of worship of their choice each week for a year instead of receiving jail time or other punishments.
“We are just simply running it back through for final legal review and a final stamp of approval by the city attorney,” Rowland said. “If he gives us that, then we’re going to move forward with it on the next court day, which will be Oct. 11. And I believe that’s going to happen,” he said.
The announcement of the program garnered attention from supporters, detractors and national media. The chief said he fielded calls and messages Monday from various national media, including ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Rowland said that because no one will be forced to take part in the program, he believes there is no violation of the tenet separating church and government and is confident it can be begin next month.
Rowland said he appreciates critiques from ACLU, others
Rowland said input from ACLU, the Freedom from Religion Foundation and other agencies has been helpful.
“We appreciate them coming forward with it because it gives us the opportunity to see their side of it and to address the issues that they have concern with,” he said. “I believe we’ve already addressed the issues.”
The alternative program will not be offered to all defendants. The judge will make that determination, Rowland said, calling the ROC program another sentencing option in the judge’s arsenal. Offenders who try the program and find it’s not working for them can go back before the judge for a different sentence, according to Rowland.
He credited area churches for ROC. “This is their idea. I just put it together and pitched it,” he said.
So far, 56 churches have expressed support, said Rowland, and 40 of those have submitted inventories of all their community resources, such as parenting, counseling and educational programs.
He said he considers the alternative sentencing plan to be a crime intervention program that can help some people rehabilitate themselves by exposing them to these organizations’ resources and giving them alternatives to crime.
The public has expressed “overwhelming” support, Rowland said. “It kind of starts to show there’s a change in the nation as far as their philosophy about what we need to do about people who commit crimes,” he said.
Again, personally I am in full support of this kind of community program. But, let’s hear your thoughts.
- Jesus or jail? Alabama town offers options for serving time (news.blogs.cnn.com)