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JDI Applauds Bipartisan Leadership on Bill to Support Incarcerated Survivors

  • May 15, 2020

Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., May 15, 2020 — At a time when partisan wrangling is the norm, a Democrat and a Republican in the Senate have united behind a landmark piece of legislation to help people in detention whose lives have been shattered by sexual abuse. This week Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced the Sexual Abuse Services in Detention Act (SASIDA), a bill that would establish the country’s first-ever rape crisis hotline for adults and children behind bars.

Under the proposed legislation, a national hotline would be created for survivors of abuse who are held in prisons, jails, and youth detention facilities. The hotline calls would be free and confidential, and would link to trained crisis counselors in the community. The bill is endorsed by JDI and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

SASIDA builds off of a long tradition of Democrats and Republicans coming together to stop prisoner rape and support incarcerated survivors. A bipartisan coalition spearheaded the 2003 passage of the historic Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) — the first federal civil law to address this violence. PREA’s sponsors included Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Frank Wolf (R-VA) in the House and Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) in the Senate.

Senator Cornyn, the lead Republican sponsor of the bill, said, “Victims of sexual abuse in our nation’s prisons must be given the same resources as anyone else who experiences this trauma. This bill would create a national hotline for prisoners to receive counseling while also requiring hotline centers to provide education and training to correctional institutions.”

Senator Schatz, the lead Democratic sponsor of the bill, said, “Sexual abuse can take a real toll on survivors’ mental and emotional health, but counseling can help people recover from this trauma. Our bill will make sure these support services for incarcerated survivors are free, confidential, and a phone call away.”

Lovisa Stannow, JDI’s Executive Director, said: “There is no group of people more marginalized than prisoner rape survivors. For far too long, the adults and youth who are locked up have been forced to keep quiet about the sexual abuse they endured. But thanks to the leadership of Senators Cornyn and Schatz, we have an opportunity to give survivors a safe outlet to process and heal from their trauma.”


Just Detention International is a health and human rights organization that seeks to end sexual abuse in all forms of detention.