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Res Philosophica

Volume 97, Issue 2, April 2020

Mass Incarceration and Racial Justice

Jessica Flanigan, Christopher Freiman
Pages 141-168

Drug War Reparations

Public officials should compensate the victims of wrongful conviction and enforcement. The same considerations in favor of compensating people for wrongful conviction and enforcement in other cases support officials’ payment of reparations to the victims of unjust enforcement practices related to the drug war. First, we defend the claim that people who are convicted and incarcerated because of an unjust law are wrongfully convicted. Although their convictions do not currently qualify as wrongful convictions in the legal sense, we argue that the same reasons for legally recognizing other wrongful convictions support conceiving of these cases as wrongful convictions. If so, then people who suffered wrongful convictions associated with unjust laws, like others who were wrongfully convicted, are entitled to compensation and reparation. We then argue that America’s drug laws are unjust laws. Therefore, people who were convicted of nonviolent drug offenses are entitled to compensation.

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