Challenging anti-carceral feminism: Criminalisation, justice and continuum thinking

Elsevier, Women's Studies International Forum, Volume 93, 1 July 2022
McGlynn C.
While anti-carceral feminism – which challenges the use of the criminal law and criminal justice system to tackle violence against women – is increasingly dominant, this article builds on an emerging body of work contesting its central premises. In particular, this article emphasises that some sexual violence survivors seek criminal justice redress and examines the work of feminist organisations both supporting survivors and demanding radical change. It argues that some anti-carceral feminism risks reifying existing criminal laws and reproducing sexual violence myths and stereotypes. In doing so, it defends criminalisation of ‘new’ and emerging forms of abuse and offers ‘continuum thinking’ (Boyle, 2019) as a way of moving beyond the polarised and binary approaches of current debates and activism. The aim is to encourage a nuanced, complex approach to the criminal law and criminalisation which recognises both a role for criminal justice and alternatives; which listens to the voices of all survivors, including those whose understanding of justice includes criminal justice; and which is fully alive to the risks and challenges that all justice approaches entail whether state or community based.