Childrearing

Indiana Prosecutor Vows To Pursue Charges Against Co-Sleeping Parents

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A County Prosecutor in Indiana has some strong warnings for parents whose children die due to co-sleeping. “I’m not going to overlook that anymore as stupidity, I’m going to try to prosecute those cases,” said Jeffery Arnold, Delaware County Prosecutor.

The lawyer says that he’s seen nine infant deaths in the past year and that many of these cases were due to parents co-sleeping with their children. Arnold is one of many prosecutors across the country who has chosen to get involved in this heated parenting debate. In January, a Utah couple, Trevor Collett Merrill and Echo J. Nielsen, began their trial in the death of their second child due to co-sleeping. A Texas couple, Mark and Vanessa Clark, were charged with endangerment after their second child died during the night, also thought to be a result of co-sleeping.

Cases such as these have set the precedent that Mr. Arnold seems to be following.

Once again, these prosecutors have the support of the American Academy of Pediatrics, who have been trying to educate parents about safe sleep practices. From provocative scare tactics in advertising to community classes given by local hospitals, doctors seem desperate to communicate with parents about what they see as a dangerous trend.

Jeffery Arnold seems to be jumping into this debate. Its a possibility that he merely was attempting to scare and warn parents about the illegality of co-sleeping. Later, after making his initial remark, he toned down his rhetoric by saying, “I’m not prosecuting that parent who just lacks the education or the knowledge to not co-sleep.” That obviously contradicts his earlier statement that he wasn’t going to “overlook that as stupidity.”

One thing Mr. Arnold did specify is that he’ll definitely prosecute in cases were drugs or alcohol is present. All co-sleeping advocates warn parents that you should never sleep with your children after drinking or taking prescription medication (or illegal drugs for that matter.)

Whatever happens next, parents in Indiana will be waiting to see what this County Prosecutor does if a co-sleeping case crosses his desk. Hopefully, no such tragedy occurs.

What do you think? In the state of Indiana, co-sleeping can be seen as reckless endangerment to children. Arnold himself reiterated that state law would allow him to prosecute in cases of death due to co-sleeping. Should law enforcement get involved in these tragic cases? What should states do (if anything) to try to promote safe sleeping practices?