A judge in Oklahoma who sentenced a teenager charged with first-degree manslaughter to spend time in church in lieu of prison said he did so in order to save the boy's life.

Oklahoma District Court Judge Mike Norman has handed down similar sentences in the past, but never for someone as young as Tyler Alred, 17, or for a crime as serious.

Alred pleaded guilty in August to first-degree manslaughter after a car accident last year claimed the life of his friend John Luke Dum. Alred, the driver, was 16 at the time, and under the influence of alcohol.

Prior to sentencing last week, Alred apologized to Dum's family and embraced Dum's father. "At that moment, it sure became a reality to me that I would sentence this boy to church," Judge Norman told ABC News.

Alred was ultimately handed a maximum 10-year deferred sentence, along with a set of requirements that must be followed in order to avoid prison time.

The conditions include graduating from high school and welding school; submitting to regular drug tests and wearing a drug and alcohol bracelet; and attending a church of Alred's choosing once a week for a period of 10 years.

"I told my preacher I thought I led more people to Jesus than he had but, then again, more of my people have amnesia," Norman said. "They soon forget once they get out of jail."

[H/T: MSN Now, photo via Muskogee Phoenix]