Indiana Cops Revel in the Self-Righteous Shaming of a Young Mother Photographed on Heroin

Oct 27 2016

Indiana Cops Revel in the Self-Righteous Shaming of a Young Mother Photographed on Heroin

October 27th, 2016

Cops in Hope, Indiana have self-righteously released and publicized a photograph of a young mother passed out in a car in a Dollar General parking lot. She had apparently used heroin, and had a syringe in her hand and her 10-month-old son in the back seat.

The woman, whose name and image we won’t be sharing, was revived with naloxone and booked on charges of child neglect and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Hope Marshal Matthew Tallent has conducted a round of media interviews with the Indianapolis Star and some local TV stations to capitalize on the attention this has earned his department. And whether his justifications are cynical or merely ignorant, they’re plain wrong.

“This is becoming a new norm for drug users,” he said.

That’s highly questionable. Drug use has mixed with parenting for as long as there have been parents, and a handful of recent publicized instances—such as an example provided by cops in Ohio last month—does not a trend make.

What is notable, however, is the increased willingness of police departments to publicly shame parents who are caught under the influence of heroin—and of media outlets, including many national ones in this case, to happily cooperate in piling on the stigma.

“Parents are doing this more often with children in the car because they are doing it away from someone who is going to disapprove,” said Tallent—unconsciously demonstrating that the criminalization and stigmatized status of heroin and other drugs causes people who use them to do so in ways that place themselves and their children at increased risk.

Some would argue here that parents not using drugs would mean removing this risk—to which the counterpoint is that the US has devoted vast resources to making people not use drugs for many decades, and use them many still do. Any responsible policy acknowledges the reality of widespread continuing drug use and seeks to mitigate associated harms.

“My intention with these photos is not to shame the mother, although I realize it may appear embarrassing,” said Tallent, with understated hypocrisy. “I honestly think this picture should be used as an educational tool because I want people to see what this drug is doing.”

How essential it is to use this young woman’s personal plight to counter all of those heroin-positive stories plastered across the media these days.

“It’s shocking,” Tallent told yet another media outlet. “When you look at something like that you see your own children.”

No one, anywhere, would suggest that a parent being unconscious through drug use while in charge of a baby is a good or safe state of affairs. But anyone with a shred of common sense could infer that for a parent to be in this position, their life likely includes significant turmoil and pain—and that national-scale humiliation is far more likely to add to that, with a corresponding negative impact on the child’s life, than to solve it.

Will Godfrey is the editor-in-chief of The Influence. You can follow him on Twitter: @GodfreyWill.


  • This is the problem with overly generous social services for drug ‘addicts’ – they are actually rewarded for having children. What the hell did you think would happen? This kind of situation is the inevitable outcome – no wonder you are trying to sweep it under the rug.

    • natriley

      rewarded for having children lol, Last I heard men get the release, women get the children. You’re talking about things you don’t know, and probably can’t know. Babies can be accidents, they can be planned. This mother kept her child close, and I bet in an emergency could have gotten out of her nod and protected her child.

      • Georgia Sanchez

        Okay. Sex, nor conception, is ‘accidental’.
        A ‘nod’ is a chemically induced sleep state.
        If she comes to at all, she will be confused and disoriented. She wouldn’t know if the child was present, let alone, overcome the drug enough to affect any kind of rescue. She cannot even save herself! She will Require a
        medical-model residential treatment facility to get sober; and thats if she’s WILLING.
        BUT, you’re right, te system does NOT reward the poor for having unplanned, unprepared-for births!

  • Kathleen W

    Our first priority should be for the safety of the kids involved.

    • April Smith

      Shaming the parents hurts the kids. People only get worse when they are shamed and locked up. This mother is more likely to overdose or even commit suicide now. That hurts this child.

      • Georgia Sanchez

        You know nothing.
        Drug addicts are stoically NOT suicidal.
        Parents often get their acts together when their kids are snatched and put in the system. It is often just the wake-up call that is needed.
        Remember, the parent made a choice; the children have NO choice.
        THAT should be the bottom line.
        God only knows what these children have to witness day in and day out. Think that hurts the child?!

        • painkills2

          You cannot speak for every person who is suffering from drug addiction. So, actually, you know nothing.

          • Georgia Sanchez

            Painkills2; “…every person who” ?!!
            I’ve only spent 19 years of my life renting to, counseling and advocating for addicts of every ilk, so maybe you’re correct?
            One catch though: I’ve also spent that time observing the effects that mom & dad’s addictions have on their children.
            So, you may rely on this; the only VICTIMS in these situations are the children! Hell, their parents are the first to acknowledge that! (Once they are busted!)
            Just judging from my own experiences, I would suggest you concern yourself with who is speaking for the Children of addicts, rather than whether or not I can speak for ALL addicts.

          • painkills2

            When you tell other people that they know nothing, you can expect to get it fed right back to you. Your experiences do not encompass the whole range of human experiences. In fact, your experiences can be heavily biased by where you live. For instance, if you lived in a country where drugs were legal, you’d see a whole other picture of addiction.

            A parent must first put the oxygen mask on herself before putting one on her child. Think about that.

    • Georgia Sanchez


  • April Smith

    Excellent article Will, as always.

  • Georgia Sanchez

    Y’all are only feeling SO sympathetic because, as in Ohio (and in most cities) the junkies are Caucasian!
    That really makes me burn!
    As long as these life destroying drugs remain among minorities, folks don’t utter a mumbling word!
    And, yes, that critique includes the POTUS!
    Shamefully, self-righteous sycophants!

  • Georgia Sanchez

    Just one last comment, b4 I rupture something:
    Junkies. Are. Shameless.
    Just ask one!

  • painkills2

    While it’s true that, for some people, shame can act as a catalyst to turn their lives around, for the majority of people, shame just makes everything worse. There should be no shame in suffering from a medical condition. And most people who are shamed will not seek help. Shame is for religion, not medicine.

    • Georgia Sanchez

      Painkills2; Why do I begin to suspect that you have some type of substance abuse issue yourself…
      I pray not. My hope is that you’re simply opinionated without having a clue.

      • painkills2

        I’ve analyzed my addictions. Even blogged about it. I have nothing to hide. Can you say the same? And I’m happy to say that I don’t suffer from drug addiction, although it’s so kind of you to offer your suspicions. Yes, I’m opinionated, but my opinions are based in facts, not clues or beliefs. Please don’t pray for me — I don’t believe in it.

  • Bwin51

    I’m glad these pictures are finally being posted. Good for the police. Nothing says it best than a picture. Maybe we will now begin seriously discussing the best way to solve this problem by looking at what other countries have done. I’m thinking specifically of Portugal and Switzerland as examples. Chasing the Scream is a revelation. Everyone should read it and learn.