By Rory Fleming
Programs that provide sterile syringes in exchange for used ones for people who use drugs reduce HIV and hepatitis infections, promote safer practices, connect people with other health and social services and save money, as reams of evidence has shown.
Regardless, the fight to convince Americans that people who use drugs lives matter continues, especially in more rural and conservative areas.
Prosecutor Brad Cooper of Johnson County, Indiana, is a great illustration of how the war on syringe exchanges still thrives. In 2017, Cooper charged Toby Magness with multiple felonies for the victimless “crime” of possessing sterile syringes he obtained from a program in a different county. Magness ended up getting thrown into prison for two years.
Fortunately for Johnson County, Cooper just resigned after himself getting convicted of criminal confinement, identity deception, official misconduct and misdemeanor domestic battery. All the counts related to a domestic violence incident, during which he beat a woman and called her a “dog.”
His opinion that syringe exchanges are “enabling people to shoot heroin,” and that people who use these vital services should be prosecuted, is not uncommon.