A teenager in Oklahoma received a surprising sentence this week following a manslaughter conviction.
Seventeen-year-old Tyler Alred was involved in a deadly car accident last December, during which he was driving under the influence of alcohol. After slamming his truck into a tree in the Hopewell Park area at approximately 4 a.m., Alred’s passenger, sixteen-year-old John Luke Dum, was ejected from the vehicle and died at the scene.
When police arrived, Alred was asked to take a breathalizer test, and was found to have consumed alcohol that night.
This past August, he pled guilty to first degree manslaughter.
“I did not want to do what I did,” Alred stated at his sentencing hearing this week. “I want to change my life.”
Dum’s family also desired mercy for Alred. According to The Muskogee Phoenix, Dum’s father stood up and put his arms around Alred as he began to weep openly in the courtroom.
“I’m sorry,” Alred told Dum. “I’m so sorry.”
Dum’s sister, Caitlin, also read a prepared statement to the court.
“We don’t need to see two lives wasted for a ‘mistake,'” she said.
Alred’s attorney, Donn Baker, agreed.
“The issue you have, judge, is whether we’re going to destroy two lives,” he stated. “One we can’t do anything about. The other, like they said, you’re the judge, so it’s up to you.”
“I usually represent outlaws and criminals,” Baker continued. “Judge, I think he’s worth saving.”
Instead of locking up Alred in prison or placing him in a detention center, Muskogee County Judge Mike Norman decided to do something a little different. He sentenced him to ten years — at church.
“I believe that being in a church situation puts you in an environment where you can hear things that will change your life,” Pastor James McCracken of Boulevard Christian Church told local news channel Fox23. “Normally change comes about when we have an event that hurts us enough that we have to make some adjustments in our lifestyle.”
Baker said that Alred will likely accept the sentence.
“My client goes to church every Sunday,” he said. “That isn’t going to be a problem for him. We certainly want the probation for him.”
In addition to being required to attend church each Sunday, which will be monitored by the county district attorney’s office, Alred must obtain counseling, be tested for drugs and alcohol for one year and speak at various events about the dangers of drinking and driving.
Although rare, other judges have also sentenced convicts to church. A city judge in Bay Minette, Alabama made headlines last year when he began offering a choice between church or jail time. Other judges have been using non-Christian alternatives to doing hard time, as a city judge in Missouri says that he frequently orders convicts to perform Transcendental Meditation, a practice rooted in Hinduism.