Campaign: Fighting Child Torture - Addressing the Gaps In US Criminal Codes

After a thorough review of the 50 U.S. state codes and the D.C. code, NCCASP identified a gap which allows perpetrators of child torture to escape justice in many jurisdictions.  Federal torture law only prohibits government actors from torturing individuals. At the state level, thirty-two states and D.C. criminalize perpetrating torture or analogous actions against a child, with Michigan and California having the strongest torture laws prohibiting private citizens from torturing both children and adults.   Alarmingly, eighteen states do not specifically criminalize torture at all which means that prosecutors often must rely on other statutes in order to bring some level of justice to the child victim.

A statute specifically criminalizing torture  can provide prosecutors with a more efficient and effective tool to address severe and systematic violence, and provide more meaningful justice for the child victims. NCCASP supports introducing new federal legislation that encourages state lawmakers to pass criminal statutes addressing child torture or review their existing statutes to ensure that they adequately address child torture crimes.

NCCASP is currently engaged in the following activities:

  • Publication Analyzing State Codes, and Model Legislation – NCCASP released a 2017 report on child torture (“Addressing Severe, Systemic Maltreatment: Child Torture”) which reviewed the legislation in 50 states and D.C. to determine the extent to which the legislation addressed child torture crimes. NCCASP will publish an update to this report in 2018.
  • House Bill Highlighting State Issue – NCCASP is working to educate legislators on the issue. 
  • Draft American Bar Association Resolution – NCCASP drafted an  American Bar Association resolution urging states to look at their criminal code and see if the charges are adequate for cases of child torture.
  • State Advocacy – NCCASP believes that child torture victims exist in every state but often remain invisible to the average person living next door. NCCASP is working with state lawmakers to bring awareness and attention to this important issue.

National Database of Substantiated Child Abuse Allegations for CPS Investigators


There is no  national database of substantiated child abuse reports for child protective service (CPS) investigators to determine if a child has been abused across state lines.  NCCASP  is evaluating opportunities for integrating federal (e.g., National Child Abuse and Neglect Data Set), state and local data sources so CPS investigators and other front-line child advocates in different states can share child abuse data.

Strategic Change Network

NCCASP envisions a  Strategic Change Network to be an online forum that connects professionals working in the child protection arena to state, local, and national allies to encourage an exchange and sharing of best practices, resources and innovative solutions to improving the child protection system. NCCASP believes in leveraging the experiences of front-line child protection professionals and creating a forum for an exchange of these experiences and ideas to help develop innovative solutions that can save victims of child torture.