Walmart has suspended a program that gave first-time shoplifters in about 2,000 stores a choice: Either pay hundreds of dollars and have their crime forgiven or face potential prosecution.
Walmart says it's a voluntary program that gives suspects the choice to participate in an educational opportunity instead of going through the legal system and potentially winding up with a mark on their record. The program is one of several that vice president of asset protection and safety Joe Schrauder has paused to review since taking over earlier this year.
News about the program suspension was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
The retailer is one of the biggest clients of Corrective Education Co. and Turning Point Justice, according to the Journal. Walmart made its decision to end its programs earlier this month as more local officials scrutinized the concept, the paper said. The move comes after a California court ruled in August that Corrective Education's program violates the state's extortion laws.
Shoplifting suspects at stores that use Corrective Education are shown a video describing the program and are given 72 hours to decide whether they will pay or not, according to the Journal. The program costs either $400 up front or $500 later. If they decline, the retailer may pursue "other legal rights to seek restitution and resolve this crime," the video reportedly says.
Suspects who enroll in Turning Point's program pay up to $425, of which about as much as $75 goes to retailers in restitution to cover their time spent processing the suspect and any damage to the stolen goods, the company's founder Lohra Miller told the newspaper.
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.