Steal a Soda Get a FELONY?!

I read an article today that epitomizes what is wrong with our criminal justice system. At an Arkansas McDonald’s three people went through the drive-thru asking for cups of water, then went inside to fill their cups with soda. The manager told them to return the soda, but one of them didn’t. The driver tried to get away and the manager tried to stop him. In doing so the manager got hit by the car, which is apparently the reason for the escalation of charges. That in itself seems a bit over the top. There should have been a separate charge for that, however, not a felony robbery charge. FELONY. I can’t believe that stealing soda from one of the wealthiest entities in the world whose profits on soda well exceed 100% in the markup constitutes a Felony Robbery charge!

This is an 18 year old “kid.” Yes, he’s legally an adult, but anyone over the age of 25 will likely tell you they were still kids when they were 18. But now this guy will forever have an arrest record, and if the charges stay as they are he will also be a felon.

This issue runs deeper than just this once incident for me.

Felon is a serious label, and I believe it is used too frequently. It ruins lives that otherwise should not or would not be ruined because that label will significantly limit job opportunities, which means that it will be much harder to become a productive member of society. Instead of contributing to society people who have been over jealously charged with felonies have a much higher propensity for recurrent crimes.

Perhaps this young guy will catch a break and it will be dropped to a misdemeanor. I know morally these guys were in the wrong. They stole. One of the Ten Commandments is “Thou Shalt Not STEAL.” There is nothing after that giving any room for a gray area where stealing something little from a big corporation is okay-ish. No. He did wrong and he should be punished. But a felony robbery charge is just over the top. Fine the guy and make him do 400 (or some other arbitrary number) hours of community service.

But jail time? Not only does it increase his chance of recidivism, which hurts his life and the lives of those he commits crimes against, but it also hurts society as a whole. It costs an exorbitant amount of money to keep people in jail. Whose money? Well, taxpayers of course. And I for one do not want to be paying my tax dollars putting this kind of felon in prison.

I’m currently sitting on the Grand Jury in my county, and even though I have a degree in Criminal Justice, and once aspired to be a lawyer before becoming a stay-at-home-mom, I am surprised at myself with how little I know about our justice system.

My eyes have been opened by my experience to just how ridiculous some of these charges are against people. Don’t get me wrong, crime should be punished – I err on the side of legalism perhaps too much so, but I’m shocked and bothered by things that fall under felonies, and can’t true-bill some of them solely on the fact that they are felonies and not misdemeanors.

I’m well aware that deals get made and charges get dropped, but there are some things that do get through especially when it’s a repeat offender, and sending someone to prison on a minor transgression is just as wrong as the guy who stole the soda.

Instead of over populating our prisons with those who committed small time crimes, we should put money into programs that will help rehabilitate them and reduce the amount of recidivism.

It’s so much more productive to take care of things on the front end than it is to deal with them on the back end, and that is what prison is – the back end. But truly it hurts the bottom line far more than creating programs to lessen the amount of people in prison to begin with.

Besides, isn’t it worse that McDonald’s lies about the ingredients in its food? How about all the poison and carcinogens in their food? There’s something like 90 ingredients in McDonald’s french fries from what I’ve heard. The CEO and people running corporations like McDonald’s should be charged with crimes against humanity for all the health issues they contribute to. Now that would be justice.

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