Federal Policy

When the government takes away someone’s freedom, it takes on an absolute responsibility to protect that person’s safety.

Just Detention International
Former JDI President Tom Cahill, right, with Senator Ted Kennedy, President George W. Bush, and Pat Nolan at signing of the Prison Rape Elimination Act

JDI advocates for laws and policies that keep people safe behind bars. We played a key role in the passage of the landmark U.S. Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) of 2003 — the nation’s first-ever civil law addressing sexual abuse in detention. As an independent, nonpartisan organization, we worked closely with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, along with prisoner rape survivors and a broad coalition of allied organizations, to support the bill.

One of PREA’s key requirements was the creation of national standards to address prisoner rape. JDI led the fight for strong PREA standards, demanding that the Department of Justice include provisions that we knew were needed to end this violence. We also made sure that the standards were based on the experiences and wisdom of prisoner rape survivors themselves.

The PREA standards— released by the Department of Justice in 2012 — were a major victory for JDI and our supporters. They are a human rights tool that include many lifesaving provisions. Today, we are working to make sure that every prison and jail fully adopts the standards. JDI also advocates for further government research into sexual abuse behind bars, to help shed light on which facilities are faithfully adopting the standards, which ones are not, and whether the standards are working.


“I don’t want to live in a world where people are raped in detention. I don’t want that kind of world for my children either. That’s why I fought so hard and for so long for PREA – to make sure that prisoner rape ended with me.”

Hope Hernandez, JDI Survivor Council member