District Judge Michael Caperton of Kentucky has been getting a lot of attention recently for his use of alternative sentencing when it comes to drug and alcohol offenders. Instead of going to jail or rehab, a convicted person has been given the option of going to church. This raises several different issues that I can stand behind both sides on:
I do believe in separation of church and state. And even though this judge has used the phrase "worship services," there's likely only so many facilities for worship in a Kentucky town. Also, isn't it saying that correctional institutions and therapy are worthless? You also can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. I remember myself as a child going to Catholic church and how I'd fidget in my seat just thinking of what I'd do when I got out of there. The other odd thing about this is that the sentencing isn't mandatory. So, you get the choice of mandatory jail, mandatory rehab or voluntary church-going? What would you pick?
On the other side, I see a nation of ours that fills their jails with people possessing, selling and using substances that our government has deemed illegal (and not so illegal in other states.) A lot of money goes into housing these people while their productivity in society is cut to nil. These people lose homes, possessions and jobs while in the pokey. There is also the idea out there that if you send someone to jail for a petty crime that they will learn from and associate with people who have done far worse.
If anything, it is good to see someone trying something different even if I'm unsure of the possible results. It makes people that accept the status quo think a little outside the box.