Where I Come From

I feel the need for criminal justice reform on a deeply personal level. I grew up poor in the small town of Augusta, Kansas. My parents divorced when I was young. Because my dad was a truck driver, my three siblings and I were primarily raised by our mother, who cleaned houses. Some of my earliest memories are of my mom making sacrifices just to make ends meet. I even remember my mom writing checks to pay for groceries, not knowing if there would be money in the bank to cover them. She wasn’t proud of it, but she knew it had to be done. So from a young age, I saw what it looked like for a single mom to work hard to support her family and still come up short.

I’ve discovered a cold hard truth: our local criminal justice system is broken. It treats people like numbers, not like human beings. And it doesn’t make our community safer.

–Cooper Overstreet

Also from a young age, I saw how our criminal justice system punishes poor folks who do everything they can to make ends meet. When I was in middle school, my mom’s driver’s license was suspended because she couldn’t afford to pay a few traffic tickets. I remember her pacing around the house, worrying aloud about how she’d be able to pay our rent or buy groceries if she couldn’t drive. Driving was her lifeline to our family’s livelihood. It was how she made money. It was how she picked us kids up from school. She ended up paying a neighborhood girl to drive me and my siblings to school, but she couldn’t afford to do this for herself. So my mom broke the law. She drove the back roads to work, and prayed she wouldn’t get pulled over and thrown in jail. This ended up being my first interaction with the stark reality of the criminal justice system, and how fundamentally unfair it is to the disadvantaged.

My mom was lucky. She never ended up in jail. But, unfortunately, we can’t say the same for countless others, including hundreds of folks right here in Douglas County who all have similar stories to tell.

I moved to Lawrence in 2006 to attend KU and I immediately fell in love: with the community, the people, and the atmosphere of Douglas County. I saw progressive and thoughtful folks wanting to make a difference. This progressive community, along with the lessons I learned from my mother at a young age, led me to my calling as a defense attorney.

What I’ve Seen

As a defense attorney in Lawrence my job has been to advocate for people just like my mom: good people who have been pushed down by a broken system, forced into desperate situations just to make ends meet. I listen to their stories, and when I go to court to fight on their behalf, I do my best to share those stories, to humanize them in a system that works so hard to take away their humanity.

I’ve worked all over the state. In big judicial centers and tiny county courthouses. Most importantly, I’ve worked right here in Douglas County. And I’ve discovered a cold hard truth: our local criminal justice system is broken. It treats people like numbers, not like human beings. And it doesn’t make our community safer.

The good news is that something better is within reach. Together, we can transform our broken system and build something better in its place. We can decrease our jail population, and focus on building a community of compassion. A community committed to treating mental health and drug addiction, listening to survivors, and stemming the tide of mass incarceration. We don’t need bigger jails in Douglas County, we need bigger ideas.

What I Will Do

As your District Attorney, I will work to build a local criminal justice system that values human beings over convictions; treats all people with respect, compassion, and dignity; and makes our community safer. Our criminal justice system doesn’t have to be fundamentally unfair. But it will continue to be if our leaders sit back and continue to do nothing. Together, we can fix our broken system and bring true justice to Douglas County. This is why I want to be your District Attorney.

Vote Coop in the Douglas County Democratic Primary on August 4, 2020!

Go to KSVotes.org to register to vote or to request a mail-in ballot.