"The Right to Reintegration"

Michigan Law Authors
Areas of Interest
Publish Date
New Criminal Law Review
Publication Type
Journal Article

“Western” democracies take an uneven view of the state’s role in reintegrating the incarcerated following punishment. Particularly in the United States, where retributivism remains punishment’s dominant justification, questions of punishment center on how wrongdoers ought to suffer for transgressions. Thus, reintegrative programs are viewed as a question of policy preference for various jurisdictions, and a question of grace for the state. A republican political theory, centered on our civic bonds, emphasizes different commitments. On this view, punishment is justified where a citizen attacks another in ways that deny their civic equality and undermine our ability to maintain a common civic life. But the same justification that requires protecting civic equality through punishment compels the state to reintegrate offenders after punishment; the right to punish and the obligation to reintegrate are complementary political duties. As such, reintegrative policies are not merely the state’s choice but rather a state duty and an offender’s right. This article explores the obligations the state owes ex-felons in reintegrating them into civic society across a range of political and civic rights. It also addresses reintegration’s important role in ameliorating the racial scars of American criminal punishment.

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