Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Today is the LAST DAY of this Mid-Year Campaign. This is our hour of need.
If you value independent journalism, please support Common Dreams.

TODAY is the last day to meet our goal -- Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year.

For Immediate Release

Press Release

Report: Retail Industry Opposed Criminal Justice Reform in at Least 18 States

Walmart, Best Buy, Lowes, Albertsons Safeway, Kroger Among Top Reform Opponents

Despite the reform rhetoric and pledges many retailers made following protests against racism and police violence, a report released today by Public Citizen shows that retailers and retail industry groups have fought criminal justice reforms and advocated for harsher shoplifting sentences in at least 18 states. Most of the time – in 11 states – the retail industry prevailed against reformers.

“Retail corporations have been exceptionally outspoken about their supposed allyship with Black Americans and communities of color,” said Rick Claypool, a Public Citizen research director and author of the report. “It’s shocking that so many of these same companies are behind efforts to make it easier for police to lock up nonviolent offenders. The year 2020 is not the time to turn back the clock on what small progress reformers have made against mass incarceration.”

Best Buy, Home Depot, Target, CVS and Walmart are among the top backers of national retail groups that tried to derail state-level criminal justice reforms. The industry’s top policy priority when opposing reforms is longer sentences and higher fines for shoplifting, thwarting reformers’ efforts to reduce the U.S.’s mass incarceration crisis, which disproportionately harms Black Americans and communities of color.

In California, Albertsons Safeway and Kroger are among the top funders of the campaign for Proposition 20, an initiative on the ballot in November that, among other things, would make it easier for prosecutors to increase sentences for accused shoplifters.

In some cases, the retailers engage directly in efforts to make it easier for police to lock up alleged shoplifters. In Oklahoma, Quik Trip, a convenience store chain, directly called for tougher shoplifting sentences. In Maine, representatives of JC Penney, Rite Aid, Lowe’s, Cabela’s, and Auto Zone reportedly testified in favor of a law to send accused shoplifters who work together to prison for up to five years. In Tennessee, Walmart bans accused shoplifters from its stores, enabling prosecutors to bring felony burglary charges against the accused for subsequent thefts, no matter how small the value of the stolen goods.

View the full report here.


Public Citizen is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest in the halls of power. We defend democracy, resist corporate power and work to ensure that government works for the people – not for big corporations. Founded in 1971, we now have 500,000 members and supporters throughout the country.

Biden Urged to Embrace Windfall Tax as Exxon Says Profits Doubled in Second Quarter

"It's time for the president to demand that Congress pass a windfall profits tax on Big Oil and use the revenue to provide rebates to consumers NOW!" wrote Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Jake Johnson ·

Texas Supreme Court Allows Century-Old Abortion Ban to Take Effect

"Extremist politicians are on a crusade to force Texans into pregnancy and childbirth against their will, no matter how devastating the consequences."

Jake Johnson ·

'What's There to Even Discuss?' Omar Says Free, Universal School Meals Should Be Permanent

"We have an opportunity to prove that a government of the people, by the people, and for the people can still deliver big things. And we can feed tens of millions of hungry kids while we do it."

Jake Johnson ·

'Stark Betrayal': Biden Administration Floats New Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling

"This is the third time since November the Biden administration has announced new oil and gas leasing plans on the Friday before a holiday," said one climate advocate. "They're ashamed, and they should be."

Jake Johnson ·

As US Rolls Back Reproductive Rights, Sierra Leone Moves to Decriminalize Abortion

"I'm hopeful today's announcement gives activists in the U.S., and especially Black women given the shared history, a restored faith that change is possible and progress can be made."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo