It’s Just Shoplifting (Or Is It?): Examining Court Processing of Shoplifting Before and After the Passage of Mississippi House Bill 585

Even though there are more than a million arrests for shoplifting each year, little scholarly research exists about this topic.  In this paper, we examine the court processing of shoplifting offenses before and after the 2014 passage of Mississippi House Bill 585 in a rural jurisdiction. Among other things, House Bill 585 increased the threshold required to move shoplifting from a misdemeanor to a felony (from $500 to $1,000) and took away the requirement that the third and subsequent arrests for shoplifting (for less than $500) were automatically enhanced as felonies. Our findings reveal that the gender and racial gap in shoplifting arrests in the jurisdiction under study were reduced after House Bill 585.  On the other hand, overall numbers of shoplifting arrests,  failures to appear, and guilty dispositions increased after House Bill 585.  Implications for policy and future research are also discussed.