A small town in Alabama is turning churches into an option to keep criminals out of jail.  The police chief and local pastors are setting up an initiative that, with the help of a judge, would allow some first time offenders to stay out of jail if they agree to go to a church.

Under this program, in Bay Minette, Alabama, judges who now sentence offenders to jail or community service would have another option to offer qualifying first time, non-violent offenders.  Instead of going to jail for a year, an offender could choose to go to Sunday church services for a year.

It's a partnership where pastors would monitor attendance and offenders would have to check in. If it works, the department and local clergy believe the idea could save money and restore lives.

Police Chief Mike Rowland says "It's not a crime prevention program. It's a crime intervention program."

So far 56 churches have agreed to take part in the program called Operation ROC: Restore Our Community.

via New Sentencing Option: Church Instead of Jail - Local News - Mobile, AL - msnbc.com.

It's a safe bet that many, if not all, first time non-violent offenders in Bay Minette will choose church over jail.  It's also a safe bet that the ACLU and other "freedom FROM religion" groups will jump on this, claiming it's an unconstitutional violation of the separation of church and state.