ACLU-PA Position: Opposes
SB 596 would amend the organized retail theft statute to drastically lower the thresholds for the retail value of stolen goods for the purposes of criminal grading by 75-80% and would create a new first-degree felony offense for organized retail theft. SB 596 would also create the Office of Deputy Attorney General for Organized Retail Crime Theft, staffed by five prosecuting attorneys, each staffed by up to two special agents, to investigate and prosecute these cases.
SB 596 is a bill that relies on demonstrably failed "tough on crime" policies in response to exaggerated industry claims of an organized retail theft “crisis.” By lowering the felony threshold for organized retail theft, SB 596 will exacerbate the disparate impact this kind of grossly punitive response will have on marginalized communities—from Black Americans subjected to systemic over-policing, arrests, charging, and incarceration, to juveniles, to those impacted by poverty, unemployment, substance use disorder, or a combination of some or all those factors.
If enacted, SB 596 would exacerbate these existing racial and economic disparities, putting more people behind bars for longer. Longer prison terms offer a poor return on public safety investments, and by siphoning off taxpayer dollars to create more bureaucracy to prosecute these cases, SB 596 would only compound the loss to public safety from such an investment.
Check the bill's status here.