The Progressive commissioned this portrait for a story about Rachel Hoffman, a free-spirited college student who was murdered during a police operation. Her death helped to criminalize a law enforcement tactic whereby nonviolent drug users -without training or legal representation- were coerced into dangerous police work in exchange for leniency.
Rachel herself was arrested for possession of marijuana. When pressured by the police, she agreed to act as an informant in a drug bust. She was told to buy a handgun and harder drugs in greater quantity than she had ever bought before. What struck me most about the story is that Rachel was excited in her final moments before the sting. Despite the danger she was in, she must have felt safe under the watchful eye of law enforcement. In retrospect though, it seems obvious that the content of the purchase would arouse suspicion. At the last minute, the drug dealers changed the location of their meeting. Rachel was found dead soon after. She was shot with the gun that the police sent her to buy.
Whenever I read stories like these, I can't help remembering that it used to be illegal to drink alcohol in this country. People who are innocent today would have been repeat offenders back then. That particular law was just a line in the sand over which politicians wasted money and people lost their lives. So, what if? What if we repealed our prohibition?