Last summer, a team of reporters from the Chicago area spent several days in Oregon exploring the effects and impact of a recently-passed law, which essentially makes the penalty for possession of small amounts of drugs similar to a traffic citation. This law is the first of its kind nationally, and supporters touted it as a big shift towards treating drug abuse as a public health problem as opposed to a criminal problem requiring incarceration.
The investigation by The Better Government Association and The Chicago Sun-Times, which just published last month, looked at the new law compared to the system in Illinois, as well as some early challenges in the new landscape.
Central Oregon was one of the reporting stops for this investigation, and I worked with a few of the reporters to make portraits of folks whose lives have been impacted by the change in drug law. Two received lesser charges or had them dropped entirely due to the change. I also photographed the Deschutes County District Attorney, who is a proponent of the measure and advocates for treatment over incarceration.