The City of Bay Minette, Alabama, recently attempted to institute “Operation Restore Our Community,” a new alternative sentencing program. The program allows first-time non-violent misdemeanor offenders the option to attend church in a place of worship of their choice, in lieu of serving time in prison and/or paying a fine. Offenders who choose this option are required to meet with a pastor and the police department weekly. (It is unclear if the ROC program offers other additional sentencing options, but for purposes of this post I will assume the options are limited to church or jail.)
Though scheduled to begin earlier this month, the legal team behind the program agreed to re-evaluate it in response to a cease-and-desist letter from the ACLU. Last Monday the Bay Minette City Council voted to submit the program to the Alabama Attorney General’s office for review. Bay Minette Police Chief Michael Rowland believes the program is legal, but many others have raised constitutional concerns.