Disentangling the Civil-Carceral State: An Abolitionist Framework for the Non-Criminal Response to Intimate Partner Violence


The carceral state is entangled with the ostensibly non-criminal social and legal response to intimate partner violence (IPV). While feminists and anti-IPV advocates increasingly recognize the harmful effects of the carceral state’s in- volvement in addressing violence, less attention has been given to civil remedies and services which are contingent upon interaction with the carceral state. At the same time, the police abolition movement has gained rhetorical momentum, but it remains focused on the traditional role of police in affirmatively regulating con- duct, without recognizing how people are coerced into interacting with the car- ceral state to access resources.

Anti-carceral approaches to IPV cannot work to prevent and remediate harm if civil remedies require interaction with apparatuses of the carceral state. Con- versely, abolition cannot work if the movement fails to recognize that the carceral state is entrenched in the civil response to violence, not just the criminal response. This Article identifies and examines how civil remedies for survivors of IPV, in- cluding housing protections, crime victim compensation, and immigration relief, are entangled with the carceral state; analyzes the individual and structural harms caused by civil-carceral entanglements; and argues that they undermine the efficacy and equitability of remedies and further the reach of the carceral state. We can reimagine a society that works to prevent and remediate the harms of IPV without relying upon the discriminatory, retributive, and ineffective mechanisms of the carceral state.

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