Church over jail?

Is church a viable alternative to jail time for criminals? One Alabama town thinks so, but will it work?

It's a unique form of criminal punishment, if you want to call it that. Instead of sending criminals to jail, put them in church. But it's not just some farfetched idea, the town of Bay Minette, Alabama is actually going to start trying it.

For people found guilty of misdemeanors they will have the choice; time in jail or a year of going to church every Sunday.

Those who chose to go to church will have to check-in weekly with a pastor and the police department. It they keep it up for a year their criminal case will be dismissed.

"It may appear to be a choice but is it really a choice? Go to jail or go to church? I think most folks will opt to something where they are not physically incarcerated," says Dougherty County District Attorney Greg Edwards.

Albany pastor, Fredrick Williams says he thinks this may be a serious and effective option for people at a cross roads.

"Sometimes, people are just acting out and they need the leadership and spiritual guidance. I think bringing them in the church, brings them in another environment," said Williams.

"I've always suggested that faith based organizations are helpful in the whole process of rehabilitation as well as helping prevent crime," said Edwards.

But of course there are some legal issues that could be a problem.

"Making it a direct sentence that you go to church has historically been an issue because of the constitutional separation of church and state," said Edwards.

"I think that our country went so far trying to eliminate the church role, but we know without god it's almost impossible to stop certain behaviors, so we're here and we're waiting," said Williams.

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