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

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

WASHINGTON - 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.

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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.

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