Vulnerability Discourses and Drug Mule Work: Legal Approaches in Sentencing and Non-Prosecution/Non-Punishment Norms


This article analyses the meaning of vulnerability in discourses about drug mules and couriers at a national and international level, particularly the cases of Costa Rica and England and Wales. Drawing on policies, legislative reforms and court cases, it examines how vulnerability mobilised claims for more proportionality in sentencing practices for drug offences. Vulnerability discourses also underpin claims that drug mules are trafficked persons whose culpability should be extinguished, or at least, diminished. Yet, this article suggests vulnerability discourses can also reinforce neoliberal governance mechanisms rather than expose and critique the ways in which gender and racial histories of oppression intersect with the international drug control system, contributing to the precarity of drug mule work.


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