Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Where's the Service?

I'm loathe to give a prosecutor a hard time when he's talking about alternatives to incarceration. When it comes to a plan to lock up fewer people, I'm generally in favor of it. But I can't get completely behind this:

New Kanawha County prosecutor Mark Plants is proposing allowing people sentenced to community service to work off some of that time through Bible study or other faith-based programs.

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Plants said the alternative sentencing program might allow a person who's been sentenced to three hours of community service, which typically involves activities such as cleaning up trash on the roadside, to do two hours of physical labor and one hour of faith-based study.
Faith-based programs make me queasy to begin with, but as long as they're doing something productive I'll not raise a stink. But Bible study as community service? Exactly how is the community helped by giving someone time to read the Bible?

It would have to be a voluntary program, anyway, so it's not as if you could force heathen criminals to read the Word of the Lord and repent of their criminal ways. And what about the other options you'd have to allow to avoid an Establishment problem? If I am nailed for DUI and get community service, can I spend an hour listening to Zappa or Yes? They're much more meaningful to me than some book of mythology.

Like I said, alternatives to incarcerations are good thing, but they should benefit the community in some way. An hour picking up highway litter makes much more sense than an hour spent with the Good Book (of whichever variety).

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