Judge gives shoplifters an option: do the time or wear the sign

Judge gives shoplifters an option: do the time or wear the sign

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - If you're busted in Greene County for shoplifting and you go before Judge Dan Stidham, you should know ahead of time, if you're guilty, your punishment is up to you.

"The first choice they have is not to steal," Judge Stidham said. "The second choice they have is whether they want to wear this sign or simply be incarcerated for the weekend."

On any given day, there are plenty of people walking in and out of the Greene County Courthouse. Whether you're there to renew your car tags or attend court, you'll wind up seeing a lot of people.

That foot traffic at the courthouse will now aid in a new program aimed at combating a growing problem in Greene County.

"Unfortunately, shoplifting has become an epidemic here in Greene County," Judge Stidham told Region 8 News.

Stidham explained that over the past year, there's been a roughly 50% increase of shoplifting cases on his docket.

"Shoplifting cases used to be pretty rare," he said. However, times have changed.

"It's clothing, it's dog food, people pushing entire carts of stuff out of the store."

So, Stidham said he's changing up the sentencing structure for shoplifters. You can either sit in jail three days or wear a sign reading "I AM A CONVICTED SHOPLIFTER" for three hours in front of the courthouse.

"It's pretty intensive. We want to make it such that someone's not gonna want to go out and do it again," Stidham said.

Judge Stidham said in the past, those consequences weren't always an option because of limited space at the Greene County Jail. However, with a new jail, overcrowding isn't an issue.

Now that they can give that option, Stidham has a warning to would-be shoplifters.

"There's gonna be consequences," Stidham said. "Right now, we're not sure how many signs we're gonna need or how many people are gonna choose the sign over the incarceration but we'll make as many signs as we need."

Stidham said a majority of the feedback he's received is positive and he's glad people are weighing in.

"It's important that they understand that we have a problem and that we're making efforts to try and make the problem go away."

Shoplifting, a class A misdemeanor, is punishable up to a year in jail but Stidham hopes making the punishment more public drops the number of shoplifting cases coming through his court. The program begins October 15.

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