Criminals Can Choose Between Jail and Church and the Overwhelming Response to One Man’s Messages in a Bottle

Adriana Diaz

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Criminals in a small Alabama town now have the choice between the house of corrections and the house of God. It's part of Operation Restore Our Community in Bay Minette. Starting today, the town will offer nonviolent first-offenders a get-out-of-jail card if they go to church every Sunday for a year. Prisoners in the program will also have to write about each service. According to Bay Minette's police Chief Mike Rowland, the hope is that prisoners will turn into "productive citizens." But does this cross the line between church and state? The police claim it doesn't because prisoners can choose whether they want to participate and, if so, where to worship. But the American Civil Liberties Union thinks otherwise. It calls the operation "blatantly unconstitutional," and for the most part social media agree. Some are wondering how this could be legal. @AddInfoOrg says it's a "breathtaking assault on the First Amendment." But there are supporters. On Facebook, Lisa Hillesland called it "A great way to save taxpayer money." What do you think of the program? Tell us on Facebook and Twitter!

One man's creating a new wave of old-school social networking. Over the past 15 years, Harold Hackett has tossed 4,800 message-stuffed Ocean Spray juice bottles off the shore of Canada's Prince Edward Island. Believe it or not, they actually made their way across the Atlantic! How do we know? Well, Hackett has received more than 3,100 replies to his letters. His pen pals hail from England, Africa, Russia, Norway, France, and the U.S., just to name a few places. Hackett said the letters he receives each year is like getting "150 Christmas cards." He told the BBC, "I just love doing it the old way. The only reason why I don't put my phone number on my note is because I know then they'll all call me and I won't get any letters back. I won't have any showcase. I won't have nothing." Some bottles spent more than 12 years at sea before Hackett got a response. "I don't think I'm going to quit until I shut my eyes for good," he said. "I was born with a curve in my spine. But if I get crippled, I'll manage to get someone to [send the bottles] for me. I'm going to go as long as I can." The story has people on modern social media, like Twitter and Facebook, feeling warm and fuzzy inside. @farida904 said she's "in love" with the letters, and @JIzzy5 said, "I'd probably cry if I ever received a hand written letter again. A beautiful art that's dead." The BBC video is great, you can watch it here.