The shoplifter was caught red-handed at the California Walmart and taken to a back room by a store employee. Until recently, the next step might have been a call to the police, but, instead, the shoplifter was offered another option.
He was shown a short video about how terrible a criminal record would be. He was told that if he confessed to his crime and agreed to participate in a privately run diversion program -- six hours of online behavior therapy---he could avoid arrest, a fine or worse. The cost was $400. The shoplifter would be billed. He signed up.
Later, it turned out, he didn’t have the money, not even the $50 minimum installment required to keep his case out of court. And while eventually he did end up in court, it was not as a defendant but as evidence in a 2015 suit brought by the San Francisco City Attorney, who asserted that the tactics used by the company, Corrective Education Company, were illegal. In fact, the City Attorney, Dennis Herrera, equated CEC’s business model with “a Hobson’s choice, which is really no choice at all.”
[For more on this story by JESSICA PISHKO, go to https://www.themarshallproject...t-calls-it-extortion]
Photo: A man shops at a Walmart store in San Jose, Calif, in 2013. JEFF CHIU/ASSOCIATED PRESS