Carceral Care Work

Strengthening Policing Through the Provision of Social Services


  • Nicole Nguyen Department of Education Policy Studies, University of Illinois-Chicago


Countering violent extremism, terrorism, carceral care work, social movements, studying up


In this article, I examine the United States’ antiterrorism framework, Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), which mobilizes social service providers as terrorist watchdogs and delivers critical resources to enhance information sharing between communities and police officers. I focus on how CVE draws from previous community policing paradigms to activate care work that strengthens carceral power. I theorize these policing arrangements as “carceral care work” to highlight how the US security state uses the provision of social services to expand the criminalization of communities of color, while appearing to attenuate past practices of governmental overreaching, racial profiling, and coercive policing. The concept of carceral care work therefore does not denote a departure from past policing practices but a continuation of them; the concept, however, intends to highlight the liberal narratives and frameworks used to justify, normalize, and advance these illiberal practices. In the context of rising demands to #DefundThePolice, I view the term carceral care work as politically useful in militating against the mobilization of helping professionals and caring institutions to enhance carceral power.


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How to Cite

Nguyen, N. (2021). Carceral Care Work: Strengthening Policing Through the Provision of Social Services. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 20(6), 579–596. Retrieved from



SI - Carceral Geographies and Policing (eds. Boyce, Massaro & Christian)