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Walmart suspends shoplifter rehab program

Walmart is no longer giving its first-time thieves the option to opt out of getting in trouble with the cops.

Posted: Jan. 3, 2018 10:38 AM
Updated: Jan. 3, 2018 10:48 AM

TIPPECANOE COUNTY (WLFI) — Walmart is no longer giving its first-time thieves the option to opt out of getting in trouble with the cops.

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News 18 first told you about Walmart's Restorative Justice program in July when the Tippecanoe County Prosecutor spoke out against it. Now, Walmart is explaining why it decided to pause the program.

At first, focusing on rehabilitation rather than punishment sounded reasonable to Will Gooding.

"But I don't know about the implementation," said Gooding.

Walmart's Restorative Justice Program allowed a first-time thief to have a choice; pay for a $400 rehabilitation program or get in trouble with the police.

Gooding has a problem with the fee.

"If you get in a situation where you are someone who can't afford to pay that $400, then you go into the justice system. Whereas people who have that money would be able to take advantage of that program," said Gooding.

Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Patrick Harrington has a problem with using police as a bargaining tool. There's a reason law enforcement needs to get involved during a crime.

"We are able to identify them and we are able to determine whether they're wanted on warrants or probation violations," said Harrington.

He's happy Walmart has suspended the Restorative Justice Program. But the company says it wasn't solely due to law enforcement backlash. Walmart just hired a new Vice President in the Asset Protection Department.

"As he came into this new role he said look, we just need to spend some time evaluating this and see if it's good for Walmart with this lack of clarity still being in place," said Walmart Spokesman Ragan Dickens.

It isn't clear because various law enforcement agencies throughout the country have spoken out against the program and a recent court case in California deemed it unlawful.

"It's a case we are definitely aware of and looking at but I would say across the board it was more of a review of this program and several others," said Dickens.

Harrington hopes the Indiana Attorney General publishes an official opinion against the program soon. He believes there are better ways to curb crime at stores. Gooding agrees but says rehabilitation is necessary and shouldn't have a price tag.

"I don't think it has to do with all the security stuff, mostly just the ethics," said Gooding.

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