Shoplifting may seem harmless enough, but it can stick with the offender for the rest of their life.
According to WLTX, a shoplifting conviction goes on an offender’s permanent record and can hinder employment and financial opportunities. Even more, it takes resources away from retailers — costing them billions of dollars a year — and time away from police departments.
Taking all of these points into consideration, Walmart has come up with a new plan. Instead of arresting first time offenders, participating Walmarts are giving them the option to take an eight-hour, online course called Restorative Justice.
Walmart believes that giving first-time offenders this option will help them learn from their mistakes. Dr. Michael Gilbert, executive director of National Association of Community and Restorative Justice agrees. He explains:
“Restorative Justice is much more constructive. Those alternatives are likely to produce someone who is less likely to do it again. They’re likely to produce someone who is not going to create more victims and likely to reduce the cost to taxpayers because they won’t be involved in the justice system.”
Justice, Gilbert says, simply means holding a person accountable for their actions, and that doesn’t necessarily mean punishment. He tells WLTX:
“We just have to be willing to open our eyes and see that these are reasonable, appropriate, and effective approaches.”
Anne Hatfield, director of communications for Walmart, says the company’s program, which is offered in about one-third of all Walmart stores, gives offenders a second chance:
“The goal of Restorative Justice is to give first-time offenders a second chance so they make better choices. It is voluntary and it prevents them from having to go through the criminal justice program.”
Not going through the criminal justice system saves precious time and money. David Ferguson, a police department communications coordinator, explains:
“Our department and departments across the country are in favor of programs that are like this. We’re able get out and handle things, whether it’s a traffic accident or more major crimes instead of having to deal with shoplifting calls, in particular to Walmart.”
The program appears to be working thus far— there has been at 35 percent drop in shoplifting calls to police nationwide.