Why Should Shoplifters Get a "Program"? By Lohra Miller, CEO of Turning Point Justice
It is natural to question whether or not a petty shoplifter should be able to maintain a clear record, because most people know that punishment for doing something wrong helps us learn to act responsibly. Shoplifting has unfortunately become such a problem today that many shoplifters end up not facing punishment at all, which can lead shoplifters to offend again.
Restorative justice solutions from TPJ require shoplifters to pay restitution to retailers and complete an education program from NASP, ensuring that offenders face consistent punishment for their actions. Allowing first-time petty shoplifters to make amends and maintain a clean record also means that citizens can continue to develop a positive life by getting a job, car, apartment or home, and other essentials that help us remain positive members of our communities.
Committing a Crime, But Not Yet a Criminal
In my experience as a prosecutor and district attorney, most offenders do not appear in court the first time as hardened criminals deliberately flaunting the law. They are family members, neighbors or colleagues going through a disruptive time in their life. Some have been victims previously and unfortunately, once in the criminal justice system, most are likely to return in the future. Before being exposed to the rules of the formal process, offenders generally feel accountable to the victim for their actions and want to repair the damage they have caused.
“A first interaction with the criminal justice system for a petty offense like shoplifting can be used as a teaching opportunity.”
Traditional criminal justice systems ensure that offenders are published, but this does little to educate them about the consequences of their actions. More importantly, the focus on punishment does nothing to address the underlying causes of the criminal behavior. A first interaction with the criminal justice system for a petty offense like shoplifting can be used as a teaching opportunity. It should help offenders understand the consequences of their actions and give them an opportunity to voluntarily repair the damage they caused to both the victim and the community while protecting their dignity and ability to be productive citizens.
Reduce Recidivism, Fight Crime
The restorative process engages victims, offenders and community to create agreements, which avoid recidivism, restore safety and determine how wrongdoing can be addressed. The restorative justice process has been used throughout the world in various forms of mediation style problem solving, with local prosecution and/or police providing regulative framework for the specific processes in that jurisdiction.
Restorative justice aims to reduce recidivism and deter crime. Pre-court programs for petty offenses, conducted prior to the criminal process and administered by neutral third parties, can stop the shoplifting epidemic by helping offenders learn from their mistakes the first time they commit retail theft. Compliance must be monitored so that the few who do reoffend are caught and face traditional prosecution, and it is our hope that these more severe consequences will help these offenders avoid a life of crime. To learn more about TPJ solutions to shoplifting, please visit our web page on the Court Alternative Program that we offer in partnership with NASP.