Johnson County, In., Prosecutor Brad Cooper never apologizes for being tough on crime, but his views on drug crimes were shaped by a personal tragedy that has affected him since before he became prosecutor in 2009: the overdose death of his younger sister.
She took painkillers after hurting her back while playing high school softball but soon the pills were used for more than pain management, reports the Indianapolis Star. “That was the first time I’d ever heard of anyone using heroin,” said Cooper, 48. “Now I’ve heard that story a thousand times in the courtroom.” Heroin started to make a comeback in the past decade or so. Indiana saw a fivefold increase in overdose deaths attributed to all drugs between 1999 and 2013.
After Cooper became prosecutor in 2009, he started asking judges to place felony drug offenders in the Indiana Department of Correction’s Purposeful Incarceration program, which offers addicts time off their sentences in exchange for completing intensive drug treatment. Cooper now is asking other Johnson County leaders to start a similar program in the jail and at the work-release facility. He also credits a drug treatment court for helping the justice system turn around lives of those charged with possession and other lesser crimes. Cooper’s interview with the Star was the first time he spoke publicly about his sister’s death. The timing is right, Cooper said, because he wants other communities in Indiana to consider the approaches that he’s taking.