“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.
Given that one of the central roles of political philosophy and criminal theory is illuminating the borders of justified state punishment, the modern crisis of overcriminalization is a painful defeat. Generations of legal theory, grounded in liberalism, has done little to stem the tide of criminal law and the explosion of criminal punishment. One notable island of decriminalization has been the retreat of criminal punishment surrounding marijuana consumption. With the combination of medical marijuana regimes, reduction of punishment, and halting steps toward full decriminalization, marijuana stands in stark contrast to the highly visible war on drugs that has driven much contemporary overcriminalization. This piece argues that opponents of overcriminalization have much to learn from the functional decriminalization of marijuana. Marijuana decriminalization has not been successful because of a swing in public attitudes about marijuana use. Rather, decriminalization is possible because advocates can marshal agreement across philosophical starting points, bringing both liberals and nonliberals into consensus. This groundswell demonstrates that legal theorists concerned about containing state power must look beyond liberal theories. Most importantly, this example reveals that legal theorists interested in turning back the tide of overcriminalization must do more than wait for areas of Rawlsian overlapping consensus; they must reach out to generate consensus with Rawlsian conjecture by viewing law not only from the liberal vantage point but from the nonliberal's perspective as well.