JDI Statement on the Passage of the Justice For All Act
- December 19, 2016
Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., December 19, 2016 — In a major step forward in the fight to stop sexual abuse behind bars, President Barack Obama reauthorized the Justice For All Act (JFAA) on Friday. Provisions of JFAA will speed up the implementation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) standards, while also increasing transparency from states on their efforts to comply with these rules. Notably, JFAA passed with strong bipartisan support, and its sponsors — including Senators John Cornyn and Patrick Leahy and Representatives Ted Poe and Jim Costa — worked closely with JDI and dozens of advocacy groups on drafting it.
“By passing JFAA, President Obama and leaders in Congress have made it clear that stopping sexual abuse in detention is a national priority,” said Lovisa Stannow, Executive Director of Just Detention International. “Ending this violence is one of the rare issues that brings together people from both sides of the aisle. Through this law, our elected officials are demonstrating that ensuring the safety of prisoners is a value that we all share.”
The new law will patch a loophole that could have allowed states to avoid ever losing federal funds for not complying with the PREA standards. Previously, states had no deadline to comply fully with the law; in theory, a state governor could have reported year after year to the Department of Justice that they are working toward full implementation, and escape any loss of funds. JFAA imposes on states a deadline of six years to adopt all of the law’s provisions or else lose five percent of federal corrections funding. In early 2016, the vast majority of states submitted an assurance that they were making progress on the law, but had not yet achieved full compliance.
The new law also requires states to share more information about their efforts to keep prisoners safe from sexual abuse. States that are in compliance with the law will have to disclose information on how they are implementing it; states that have yet to achieve compliance will have to report on how they intend to do so. In addition, the law creates a one-stop clearinghouse for PREA audits, which will allow for much greater public scrutiny into the policies of prisons and jails.
“Every year, 200,000 people are sexually abused in U.S. detention facilities. Yet this abuse is completely preventable,” said Stannow. “With PREA, and the improvements made to it through JFAA, corrections leaders have the tools to keep prisoners safe — and advocates have the tools to hold these leaders accountable if they do not.”