12 years in jail for shoplifting: how Walmart is helping prosecutors hike up sentences

The case of a man facing 12 years in prison for shoplifting shows a growing trend in America: corporations successfully pushing state prosecutors to increase shoplifting charges to felonies

It was late afternoon on 26 December 2016 – the day after Christmas, a day when most stores are busy processing the returns for unwanted gifts – when Curtis Lawson entered a Walmart in Knoxville, Tennessee. He had a receipt for $39.57 in purchases made earlier that month. He needed cash. He walked through the store, picking up the same items he had purchased previously – dishwasher detergent, Oral-B refills, and a pair of girl’s jeggings – and put them in a shopping bag. He brought them to the register, returned the items using his receipt, and received $39.57 in cash. Lawson had committed what is known as “return fraud” – pretending to return items that you didn’t buy.

A big box retailer’s desire to reduce shoplifting and a prosecutor’s penchant for punishing those who are more unlucky than dangerous

The only people who have access to the notices are loss prevention staff.

The extension of private influence over parts of the criminal justice system that benefit third parties, like retailers

Across the country, more state legislatures are increasing the penalties for multiple shoplifting offenses

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