U.S. stores are giving accused shoplifters a choice on whether or not they will call the police- but it comes at a price.
How it Works:
A store security guard catches an apparent shoplifter, pulls them aside, runs through their database to check for any outstanding warrant, and then gives them a choice: police, or no police.
Choice 1: The Security Guard calls the police who will attend the store, and the police may make an arrest that could lead to criminal charges and even jail.
Choice 2: The Security Guard asks the accused to sign an “admission of guilt”, and arranges for that person to sign up for a $320 on-line educational course aimed at preventing further stealing.
The on-line course offered by the Corrective Education Company (C.E.C.), was designed by Clinical Psychologist Robert Setty. The company itself was created by two Harvard Business graduates, and it offers programs for adults, and youth, for shoplifting and employee theft.
The on-line course takes approximately 6-8 hours to complete. Those who sign up for the program must complete the program within 90 days. If they do not comply with the program or its’ timelines, their case is referred to a “losss prevention” specialist, which can divert the case back to police.
C.E.C. describes their program as a restorative justice program that “not only addresses behavioral issues, but provides life skills and motivation for reintegration.” Part of their program includes individual coaching.
C.E.C. describes their program as a restorative justice program that “not only addresses behavioral issues, but provides life skills and motivation for reintegration.” They profess to have only a 5% reoffending rate.
So, What’s The Problem?
Steven Wasserman, Legal Aid lawyer, expressed his view that the program is “flirting with the crime of coercion” (Leon Neyfakh Slate, National Post, Febrary 27, 2015) by pressuring people into paying $320 for the program, rather than explain their side of the situation to police.
Susannah Karlsson, a legal-aid criminal defence lawyer stated, “It’s a private company acting as prosecutor, judge, jury, and collector. That’s remarkable.”
In the last 4 years approximately 200,000 Americans have opted out of the justice system by choosing the educational “treatment” provided by the Corrective Education Company (C.E.C.). Stores such as Bloomingdales, and the Burlington Coat Factory, use the program directly. Other stores, such as H&M, and Whole Foods, access the program through an intermediary loss prevention company.
It is uncertain as to whether or not the program, which is available to retailers and government, has been used in Canada.
Jayne Embree, M.A.
Jayne holds a Masters in Psychology and is a highly experienced Divorce Coach and Child Specialist. Currently on sabbatical, Jayne is conducting research in the area of family dynamics and parental conflict.
Areas of Practice: Family law including separation, divorce, mediation, arbitration, child & spousal support, support variations, guardianship, parenting time, access, property division and more. Victoria BC