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March 3, 2016

Indiana county prosecutor seeks re-election by bragging about "proudly over-crowding our prisons"

-radleybalkoflickrAs reported in this Reason blog posting, a local prosecutor in Indiana is pursuing reelection by bragging about being proud to overcrowd the state's prisons. The full headline of the posting, along with the picture, provides the essentials of this notable story: "Indiana Prosecutor Bradley Cooper Is 'Proudly Over-Crowding our Prisons': Cooper's new campaign flyer brags about the people he's put in prison for decades over drug sales and minor theft." Here is more from the blog post about this local prosecutor and his record:

As American conservatives and liberals alike embrace criminal justice reform, those opposed are blatantly bragging about their overcriminalization agendas. One particularly gross example: a new campaign mailer from Johnson County, Indiana, Prosecutor Bradley D. Cooper, which announces that he has been busy "proudly over-crowding our prisons."

The flyer also features mugshots from convicted criminals, along with what they were found guilty of and what prison sentence they were given. It includes a man who was sentenced to 40 years in prison for selling meth, a man convicted of manslaughter who died while in prison, and a man who received a 40-year sentence for burglary.

In the latter case, William A. Russell was arrested after breaking into someone's home and stealing $52. For that offense, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. A trial court also determined that he was a "habitual offender," which qualified him for a sentencing enhancement of 20 years.

Another of the offenders featured is Amanda Smith, a schizophrenic woman who drowned her son in 2012 while he was on a court-ordered overnight visit from foster care; she claimed it was God's will and turned herself in immediately afterward. Smith's lawyers argued for her to be sent to a state mental hospital, but a judge sentenced her to 55 years in state prison instead.

Last year, Cooper made a fuss that a man accused of forcible rape was only eligible to receive 63 years behind bars, pursuant to a 2014 change to Indiana's criminal code. Previously, the man could have received a maximum sentence of 168 years in prison. Cooper called the sentencing-reform measure the "hug a thug" law and accused the state of coddling violent criminals.

For more about this local prosecutor professional history and accomplishments, his office's website includes this bio and this resume for Bradley D. Cooper. Interestingly, I believe that Prosecutor Bradley attended the same law school as frequent blog commentor federalist, and thus I would be especially eager to hear from federalist (or others) whether they think this kind of campaign slogan is unsavory or perhaps even unethical.

March 3, 2016 at 10:20 AM | Permalink


Well, given that I have many times said I believe execution to be the appropriate sentence for offenses as relatively minor as the theft of a couple hundred dollars I really don't see any of the cited cases as being out of line. Perhaps the manslaughter case, but I'm not likely to discover enough of the facts to really question that outcome.

And I fail to see how it would be either illegitimate or unethical for a prosecutor to highlight the work they have done, that is exactly the sort of information a community needs in order to decide whether to keep or ditch the man.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Mar 3, 2016 10:50:40 AM

Dear Madam/Sir:

I am a husband, father, business-owner, and citizen of Johnson County, Indiana; non-Federalist, fiscal conservative, social libertarian. I also happen to practice criminal defense throughout Indiana and support common-sense criminal justice reform.

I have known Mr. Cooper professionally for more than 20 years. Mr. Cooper's rhetoric aside, he genuinely is a hard-working servant of the people of Johnson County.

Mr. Cooper is one of the few elected prosecutors in the State who actively handles, manages, and takes to trial all levels of criminal cases. He also is the only prosecutor I ever have encountered who has an "open file" policy - he will hand to any defense lawyer who asks his entire file for their thorough review.

While Mr. Cooper can strike hard blows, he always strikes fair blows. Most notably are the blows he chooses not to strike at all. Mr. Cooper's pragmatic approach is such that he will not even a bring a case unless he has both solid evidence to prove the case and a belief that bringing the case might make a difference in our community.

While I do not always agree with Mr. Cooper's case decisions/analysis or his personal or political views, the people of Johnson County are better and safer with him as our Prosecutor.


-Jay Hoffman

Posted by: George (Jay) Hoffman | Mar 3, 2016 11:16:10 AM

I wonder if the Reason folks knew that Indiana has 1/1 credit for good time, which would allow the forcible rapist to be out in 30 years. Maybe they'd still think too much--but Cooper's position isn't as harsh as one would think from reading the Reason article.

Not sure that a B & E is "minor theft."

I guarantee you that the Marion County criminals who have heard of Mr. Cooper stay north of County Line Road.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 3, 2016 12:12:21 PM

To brag about "proudly over-crowding prisons" is sick. This guy is sounds like a blowhard tooting his own horn.
Maybe if he spent alittle time in an "over-crowded" prison himself, saw the conditions, the filth, roaches, gray colored turkey-ham &, odd-meat bricks disguised as meals and 2-person cells that hold 4-6 people, maybe he'd find his human-ness again, I doubt it, but maybe.
Some people think they are better than everyone else and that they could never end up behind bars. Karma can be a bitch.
Using mugshots of those incarcerated, for his own personal political gain, may come back to bite him.

Posted by: kat | Mar 3, 2016 3:44:22 PM


Sorry, I will only start caring about the humanity of felons when those same felons start caring about the humanity of the rest of society. Someone who demonstrates they are unwilling or unable to handle the rather lax responsibilities of being free have no one but themselves to blame for the circumstances they find themselves in.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Mar 3, 2016 4:04:01 PM

Martha Stewart lost her humanity, huh?

When "caring about" humanity is supposed to be a high bar to manage, I start to worry just a tad about humanity of the rest of us.

Posted by: Joe | Mar 3, 2016 4:23:15 PM

It is remarkable how thoroughly disconnected the rationale for AWA and state Megan's Laws (public sex offender registration & notification - SORN) are from the body of empirical literature pertaining to them. Legislators such as Mr. Grassley seem to completely misunderstand the spectrum of sexual misbehaviors sanctioned by law. Research has consistently shown SORN to be ineffective and counterproductive. Recent studies have not contradicted pivotal studies published 7 years ago:
1."Megan’s Law: Assessing the Practical and Monetary Efficacy," 2008. Zgoba et al, U.S. Dept. of Justice NCJRS document #225370 (https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/225370.pdf). Excerpt from summary: "Megan’s Law showed no demonstrable effect in reducing sexual re-offenses. . . Given the lack of demonstrated effect of Megan’s Law on sexual offenses, the growing costs may not be justifiable."

2. "DOES A WATCHED POT BOIL? A Time-Series Analysis of New York State’s Sex Offender Registration and Notification Law," 2008. Sandler, Freeman, & Socia. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 14 (4)284–302. Abstract except: "Results provide no support for the effectiveness of registration and community notification laws in reducing sexual offending by: (a) rapists, (b) child molesters, (c) sexual recidivists, or (d) first-time sex offenders. Analyses also showed that over 95% of all sexual offense arrests were committed by first-time sex offenders, casting doubt on the ability of laws that target repeat offenders to meaningfully reduce sexual offending."

They jury is in: SORN is a failed experiment. SORN laws do not help the police or the community and they do a great deal of harm. AWA and all SORN regimes should be abolished.

Posted by: Phil Taylor | Mar 3, 2016 6:03:37 PM

May I say that this is the biggest problem, "Thou Shall Not Bear False Witness". Our Oath taking Prosecutors forget about the Oath they took and the words "so help me God" while either climbing the ladder or stuffing their pockets. The Prosecutor and the judicial system do not want to hear the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.The Prosecutor would rather you take a plea bargain and ensures it with fear & threats.

Posted by: LC in Texas | Mar 4, 2016 4:25:54 PM

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