In 2003, Brian Beinlich stood before a judge in an Orange County courtroom, barely comprehending what had happened.
The judge had just told Beinlich he was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences in prison. He would not be eligible for parole for 81 years. His crime? Stealing two bottles of Hennessy from a Costco in Fountain Valley, California, and waving a box cutter at the security guards who chased him down.
A wave of criminal justice reforms in California in recent years sought to ease thousands of harsh sentences like the one Beinlich received, reduce the state’s bloated prison populations and create more opportunities for parole and rehabilitation. But if several large grocery store chains have their way, a measure on the ballot this fall will roll back some of these reforms, increasing penalties for shoplifting and making it harder for those convicted of certain non-violent property and drug crimes to get early parole.
While Proposition 20 was launched and financed primarily by law enforcement groups, grocery outlets served as early partners in the effort. They are taking a controversial stance at a sensitive time for corporate America, when companies of every stripe have taken pains to demonstrate support for the Black Lives Matter movement and its goals of tearing down racist systems of policing and mass incarceration.
Albertsons and Kroger — the grocers with the biggest financial contributions to Prop. 20 — and the California Grocers Association said in statements they supported the measure because shoplifting and organized retail crime have been on the rise, amounting to significant losses, and threatening the safety of employees and customers. They say that previous reforms went too far in removing teeth from laws meant to address this type of crime. “People are stealing, and there are no consequences,” said Richard Temple, a spokesman for the Yes on Prop. 20 campaign… Los Angeles Times