Walmart shoplifting punishment program suspended | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Walmart shoplifting punishment program suspended

Posted By on Tue, Jan 2, 2018 at 1:49 PM

click to enlarge PAY NOW OR PAY LATER: Walmart's participation in a program aimed at deterring shoplifting ends.
  • PAY NOW OR PAY LATER: Walmart's participation in a program aimed at deterring shoplifting ends.
An alternative punishment program for Walmart shoplifters has been suspended after backlash, reports the Wall Street Journal. (CNBC reported it too, if you get blocked by the  WSJ paywall.) The Bentonville-based retailer hired Corrective Education Co. and Turning Point Justice to administer a diversion program for those caught shoplifting in at least 2000 of the 4600 U.S. Walmart locations. The former options: face prosecution or pay to attend an online behavior course.

If you paid to be reformed, you would not face the many negative consequences of having a criminal record (all laid out, according to the Marshall Project, in a video presented to those caught shoplifting before they're given 72 hours to make a decision.)

A judge called the program: "a pseudo-justice system that is based on profit" and "textbook extortion." (Max in a blog post called it "another example of extraction of money from potential criminal defendants.")

But Walmart is not alone in this, by any means, according to CNBC.
Tens of thousands of first-time shoplifting suspects have paid for Turning Point and Corrective Education's programs, executives told the Journal. Other clients include Target, Bloomingdale's, Burlington Coat Factory and Goodwill Industries.
Here's a long story from the American Bar Association magazine about the potential problems with these programs. The lead tells the story of a quadriplegic woman, Debra Black, who accidentally stole $6 worth of goods from a Goodwill. She was pressured to pay $400 for a reform class. The article then discusses the issue of having a private company stand in as an arbiter of justice where cracks exist in the current criminal justice system.

Shoplifting is a massive problem for retailers, who lose $13 billion a year to theft. They get only limited help from the criminal justice system because shoplifting is considered a minor crime.

That’s why some national retailers have turned to private companies like CEC and a competitor, Turning Point Justice, based in Draper, Utah. The companies tout their programs as a win for everyone: Offenders avoid a conviction, retailers get the crime addressed and law enforcement can focus on more serious offenses.

But some observers are skeptical. They worry that suspects could, like Black, feel pressured into signing up even if they aren’t guilty. And because the programs are outside the criminal justice system, skeptics say they could ensnare innocent people without due process.

And since we're on the subject, here's some more Walmart shoplifting news, from the AP: A Myrtle Beach Walmart shoplifter was searched on Christmas Eve and found holding a Ruger 9 mm handgun, heroin, $2,500 plus in cash, dozens of pills and two human teeth.

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