Church or Prison?


That's the choice one judge is offering some minor drug offenders, the Boston Globe reports. (Thanks to reader Brendan Themes for the heads up.)

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  1. Well, it beats mandatory prison sentences for drug law violations, sort of.

    Thought experiment: If the child of the Wiccan couple mentioned in an earlier posting happened to be arrested for marijuana possession and convicted in this judge’s jurisdiction, would they be allowed to attend Wicca ceremonies as “worship services”? Or would the other judge’s ruling prohibit it?

  2. When I was hanging with the Marine Corps there were several guys in my basic training platoon who were there because they were offered a choice between prison or the corps, including a guy who was offered the choice between 4 years for armed robbery or 4 years in Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children.

    Most regretted not taking prison.

    Heard they don’t do that anymore.

  3. TWC,

    Marine boot camp is that bad? I need to know more.

  4. The only way I could stand church is if I WAS on drugs. Seriously, guys: if ever you’re in Hampton, Virginia, and stoned out of your gourd, go to the Bethel Temple Assembly of God on Aberdeen Road. They have a full-scale band as opposed to a church organist, and the part where they start dancing and speaking in tongues is totally AWESOME. Especially when they’re slightly out of focus and leaving colored trails behind them.

    Or so I’ve heard.

  5. “Or so I’ve heard.”

    Surrrrrre, Jennifer!

    I’m still waiting to hear how these guys TWC mentioned thought prison would be better than Marine boot camp. Was Full Metal Jacket on the money?

  6. Marine boot camp is that bad? I need to know more.

    Basic training is never pleasant, and I can imagine how much more rough it could be if the drill instructors know you’re there in lieu of being in prison.

    Having said that, I cannot imagine those “volunteers” who regretted choosing military service over prison while in boot camp having the same opinion once their term of service expired. A stint in the military always looks better on your record than a stint in the penitentiary.

    But back, now, to the subject at hand. While I wouldn’t approve of a judge “sentencing” someone to church, giving a convict the option of church or jail doesn’t really bother me. They can choose to go to prison, which would be their only choice with most judges.

  7. Oh man… anyone here from Kentucky? Party’s at YOUR house.

  8. Max-
    What about an atheist given the option of church or jail? Wouldn’t it be unconstitutional to give someoone the choice of jail or attending a religious service he by definition does not believe in?

    Also, why punish the churches by filling them up with resentful adults who DO NOT want to be there, and only are because it’s better than an ass-raping?

  9. What if the offenders choose to attend satan-worshipping services?

  10. That’s it. I’m starting an ass-raping, satan-worshipping, tongue-speaking church. Franchise opportunities will be available to H&R readers on a preferred basis. Who’s with me?

  11. SPD-Yes, Full Metal Jacket was pretty much dead on. The beatings are more or less gone these days, but the rest is still accurate.

  12. I do drugs in Church all the time. Catholic masses are best. Cathedrals are trippy, and the Frankensense and Myrrh covers up the smell of my stanky noogs. Buddhist temples are pretty chill as well, following closely by Reform Jewish synagogues. Because Hebrew sounds totally weird and cool, and like, ancient when you’re baked off your ass, but the services aren’t too long.

  13. SPD, Full Metal Jacket was a 100% accurate presentation of Viet Nam era Marine Corps basic training except for one thing.

    There was no way that anyone could have smuggled a live round off the firing range. Every round was accounted for. The rounds were counted out to you when you arrived and when you left the range you had to hand back the same number of empty cartridges. If there were any missing, nobody left the range until every shell casing was accounted for.

    During the rest of basic training we carried weapons that had the firing pins removed (good idea).

    I always thought those guys that said they would prefer prison were crazy. The thing is that once basic was done and you got to your school or unit it wasn’t that bad. Just like having a job unless you got sent to Viet Nam–and that was increasingly unlikely as the US wound down the war.

    I’ve heard that the DI’s are not as abusive as they used to be. Still physically tough but they’ve put away the mean and nasty stuff. I’m not sure how much I buy that, but there probably has been some changes.

    It wasn’t fun. The DI’s were physically and emotionally abusive and often violent. Seen some really ugly stuff. I’m not quick sometimes but I figured out real fast that if you did exactly what the DI’s wanted you to do that you had a good chance of survival with minimal bruising.

  14. I don’t approve in principle. But, in practice, I mean, come on. Go to jail and spend your time around people who might beat you, rape you, or at least steal from you, or go to church? Even the most adamant atheist would choose church, except maybe ultra-insane Randroids or something. And I have a hunch that even a lot of them would take church (they just wouldn’t admit it to their friends).

    If you really can’t take it, go to a Unitarian church.

  15. To be clear, my only point is that this judge is offering defendants a choice between a de facto violent punishment (jail) and a (usually) non-violent punishment (church). Ideology aside, the judge is clearly offering drug offenders lighter punishments. Anything that makes the drug war less violent is a good thing in my book.

    Not to mention that church attendees can still hold jobs, while a stint in jail may interrupt employment and make it much harder to get a job once you’re out of prison.

    Honestly, this judge is making the drug war less intrusive and violent, and that is an objectively good thing.

  16. Does the Church of Ja count?

  17. Is this judge giving people a choice between jail vs. church, or rehab vs. church? Most rehabs seem to be a lot like churches, both seek to indoctrinate a person into a certain lifestyle and point of view. Its ether ?Jesus is your savoir? or ?drugs are bad, m?kay?.

  18. You’re acting as if this was something new. For years the courts have been forcing people to go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and they’re prescription for recovery has always trade in the almighty bottle for the almighty “God.”

    Of course, why should a little thing like the 1st Amendment get in the way of evangelizing… I mean, rehabbing substance abusers.

  19. Marine boot camp is that bad? I need to know more.

    Service equals citizenship!

    (Sorry RAH, where ever you are.)

  20. I’m with you, t. It sucks that adult, consensual, non-violent behavior is even a court issue, but if some fundie judge fuckhead gave me a choice between church or ass-pounder prison, I would be all “Oh yas, oh praise the lawdy Jay-sus!”

  21. blammo,

    Catholic churches and services from the ancient era to the modern era were designed as aides to meditation and mystical states.

  22. You’re acting as if this was something new. For years the courts have been forcing people to go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and they’re prescription for recovery has always trade in the almighty bottle for the almighty “God.”

    True, but every state supreme court and federal appellate court to have considered the issue has ruled this to be unconstitutional. Without having read the Globe story under discussion, I would surmise that trial judge’s sentence here is also unconstitutional.

    The state may allow a criminal to choose between prison or another option — but if offered another option, it must include both religious and secular programs. I’m too lazy to go find and link to the case law, but this is the unanimous finding of all appellate courts so far (or since I last checked, about 18 mos ago).

  23. wasn’t marijuana once part of the incense mix for the censors? like, 100 years ago, etc. i swear i remember someone telling me that, in a non papist-bashing context.

  24. wasn’t marijuana once part of the incense mix for the censors?

    .. don’t know about that, but it was a principal ingredient in the Aboriginal American peace pipe, IIRC ..

  25. I’ve got no problem with the prison/rehab/church choice, as long as secular groups like the Secular Organizations for Sobriety or the Ethical Culture Society are included. Since those might be thin on the ground in the Bible Belt, attendance at an ethics course at a local college or university might be included.

    Going to church services in lieu of getting some counseling is probably not enough to change future behavior of chronic drunks and junkies, though. Prison is full of jailhouse converts who have no more interest in the spiritual than making their record look good so they get released sooner. I think this judge is playing into this well-known phenomenon.


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