Prisoner rape constitutes torture under international law -- whether it is committed by corrections officials or by other inmates. The U.S. has ratified two binding treaties that explicitly prohibit torture: the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

JDI believes that compliance with international human rights laws is a critical component of ensuring inmate safety. JDI works to ensure that the U.S. fulfills its obligations under international treaties, including by providing information to U.N. monitoring agencies. In 2010, after JDI submitted a shadow report to the U.N. Committee Against Torture, the Committee expressed concern about sexual violence in domestic facilities and urged the U.S. government to urgently address this crisis.

JDI is urging U.S. ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT), which would significantly improve independent oversight of U.S. detention facilities. JDI also submitted a report to the U.N. Human Rights Council and provided testimony urging the Obama Administration to sign the OPCAT. In addition, JDI submitted a report to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for consideration in its development of international standards to protect the human rights of persons deprived of liberty throughout the Americas.

As part of our effort to bring basic human rights standards into U.S. prisons and jails, JDI has developed a groundbreaking human rights training for corrections officials that focuses on every person’s absolute right to be free from torture -- including state-sanctioned sexual violence. This training makes clear that it is the responsibility of corrections officials to protect inmates from sexual abuse. JDI has presented this training to thousands of prison officials across the country.

For more information about JDI’s effort to bring international human rights norms into detention facilities in the U.S., please contact Cynthia Totten, Senior Program Director, at