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The local news is reporting that authorities in southern Alabama are giving its non-violent offenders a choice: they can either go to jail or go to church every Sunday for a year. Frankly, I’m really not sure which is worse.

The city judge in Bay Minette will let misdemeanor offenders choose to work off their sentences in jail and pay a fine; or go to church every Sunday for a year.

If offenders select church, they’ll be allowed to pick the place of worship but must check in weekly with the pastor and police.

If the one-year church attendance program is completed, 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.

Where modern prisons do a disservice to the incarcerated by damaging their ability to function in society, encourage disdain for authority, and so on, there is no greater way of turning a generally non-violent individual into a violent one than by giving them religion. After all, what kind of positive rehabilitation can arise  from an outdated text that justifies slavery, misogyny, bigotry and violence against the heathen, which is a subjective enough label to regard everyone as one?

I would be curious to learn more about what requirements are necessary for certain institutions/churches to qualify for this program; for example, could an academic institution serve as a substitute? I can see it now – once a week these convicts are required to spend an hour a week in a secular environment listening to lectures on logic and philosophy. Besides allowing the offender the opportunity to serve their “punishment” outside of jail it would also place them in at least the top 90th percentile of their peers; hell, one can argue this approach would be an economic investment.

I’m a dreamer, I know.