About Just Free (HTJFI)
We are a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that provides legal services to survivors of human trafficking. We seek to accomplish this by partnering with local attorneys who are willing and able to donate their time, talent, and treasure to provide legal services to human trafficking survivors
pro bono (free of cost) or at a significantly reduced rate.
The Criminal Justice Response to
Around the world, there are an estimated 24.9 million children, women, and men in forced prostitution, commercial sexual exploitation, and forced labor yet according to the 2020 Global Law Enforcement Data in 2019 only 11,841 traffickers were prosecuted for which there were 9,548 convictions
The criminal justice system has lost the trust of survivors, over 91% of survivors have been charged with a crime that creates a lifelong barrier to breaking free from a trafficking situation. [U1] A criminal record for prostitution or drug-related charges makes it difficult to obtain housing, an education, employment or achieve financial security.
Furthermore, stopping the trafficking of women and girls, and providing survivors with protection and services, appears to be a low prosperity priority for many governments. A survivor’s ability to access and achieve justice in the United States is constrained by significant challenges to investigate and prosecute cases. Research reveals that a part of the barrier to identifying human trafficking is a lack of awareness and misconceptions about the prevalence of sex and labor trafficking, negative attitudes towards survivors, and a lack of institutional support to investigate and prosecute cases. More than half of prosecutors interviewed say they are unaware of anti-trafficking legislation in spite of the increased attention to human trafficking.
Our criminal justice system must be totally reworked and reimagined to demand justice for courageous survivors of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.
At Human Trafficking Justice and Freedom International we strive for accountability so those who have been wronged receive justice against those who wronged them by making the following our core objectives.
To demand justice for survivors of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation
Helping survivors receive compensation for those crimes done against them.
Providing quality legal representation at no charge to survivors of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation that addresses the myriad of legal needs they have that have resulted from their being trafficked.
Proving training, support and resources to attorneys, prosecutors, and judges to advance human trafficking cases. We want to see that traffickers and buyers are punished to the full extent of the law.
Helping to increase the capacity of investigators, prosecutors, and courts with specific expertise on trafficking cases to minimize delays in bringing cases to trial
Strategic litigation that will hold perpetrators, government agencies, corporations, or any third party liable for trafficking crimes. By forcing change this will prevent abuse.
“I do not choose to identify as a prostitute, but that was what the penal code said I am. Just knowing that the law has labeled me as such played a part in the trauma and getting past this label is part of the healing.”
Human Trafficking Justice and Freedom International exists to seek justice and freedom for those who have been afflicted and abused by human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation through legal advocacy, education, and policy reform.
We envision a world free from human trafficking in all its forms and where those wronged receive justice against those who wronged them and are provided the support needed to lead full and healthy lives.
HTJFI is a faith based organization and we are Christian in our faith orientation - as in we follow Jesus and His example to show unconditional love to the poor, marginalized and oppressed and are guided by the tenants of the Apostle’s Creed noted below. Accordingly, we are called to serve every victim of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation we can - of any faith or none.
Therefore, HTJFI does not discriminate in its provision of legal services to human trafficking victims/survivors and/or those commercially sexually exploited with regard to race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, family responsibilities, disability, enrollment in college or vocational school, political affiliation, veteran status, sexual orientation and/ or gender identity or genetic information.
It was in 2010 when Patrick McKenna’s daughter was a sophomore in high school and wrote a paper about human trafficking, not in faraway places like Nepal or India but here in the United States. Up to this point, Patrick had never even heard about human trafficking, let alone that it was actually happening in our own communities in the U.S. To further learn that, it was not just the big cities like New York, Chicago or Los Angeles where it was happening but in rural and suburban communities all across the country was a huge revelation. Because of this revelation before and had worked in Virginia Beach public defender’s office for 6.5 years, he realized that he had not fully served a number of his clients during his time as an attorney in the Virginia Beach Public Defender’s office from 1994-2000. Unfortunately for them and many other survivors in the criminal justice system, “I didn’t know what I didn’t know” and neither did so many others. Patrick felt if he had known then what he knows now, that perhaps, he could have more effectively helped some of the many women and minors that he was representing represented who were runaways, in the foster care system, and/or women charged with prostitution and/or other criminal charges that arose out of their victimization.
Making sure others are educated and know the right questions to ask is one of the keys to systematic change. His daughter doing that one thing, writing a paper, occurred at the same time Patrick was leaving a law firm and wondering what his next career move would be. His wife, Lori, had also become interested in the issue and introduced her husband to Sara Pomeroy, founder of Richmond Justice Initiative (RJI), now Freekind, an antihuman trafficking organization in Richmond, Virginia. Sara asked if Patrick would be the lawyer to help with legislative advocacy to address the great inadequacy of Virginia’s laws at the time dealing with human trafficking. After working together Sara introduced Patrick and Lori to a few volunteers in the Southeastern Virginia region and together theywho started the Virginia Beach Justice Initiative (VBJI), now known as Freekind which helped raise awareness and provide training to the community on the issue as well as working with survivors to find a pathway out of what is known as “the Life”. It was through this latter work that Patrick realized there was great need for survivors to have quality trauma informed legal counsel to address the myriad of legal and life issues they faced as a result of their victimization. Fast forward to 2021, wherein having and seeingseen the a need for attorneys and survivors to connect, Patrick McKenna started Human Trafficking Justice and Freedom International, a pro bono legal center serving human trafficking survivors.
One Lawyer - Patrick McKenna Who Sought To Change The World For
Human Trafficking Survivors
We believe all women can embrace who they are,
can define their future, and can change the world.
Our Core Values
Faith-Based - We are a faith-based organization; specifically, we are Christian in our faith orientation – as in we follow Jesus and His example to show unconditional love to the poor, marginalized and oppressed. Accordingly, we are called to serve every victim of human trafficking we can – of any faith or none.
God First - We will seek God in all we do and count on Him to help us do more than we could ever imagine. We will give Him the glory for all He uses us to accomplish.
Survivor Empowerment – God has called us to be His hands and feet, to love and help those afflicted and abused by human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation through legal advocacy, education, and policy reform. We are called to come along with survivors to advocate for them and seek justice on their behalf while removing barriers that hinder them from moving forward on their healing journeys. We also recognize that to act as an ally to empower survivors fully, we must be actively engaged in listening to survivors and incorporating their life experiences in our legal and policy advocacy and reform if we are to be effective in doing so.
Culture of Honor – We strive to reflect Christ in all we do. We will seek to be gracious and show mercy and respect to one another. We will seek justice with a spirit of humility. We encourage one another’s ideas and gifts and strive to be quick to forgive and listen while being slow to speak or get angry.
Spirit of Collaboration – We believe we have been called as one among many to eradicate human trafficking and that we cannot solve this issue or effectively serve survivors of human trafficking if we seek to operate in our world apart from others. Accordingly, we look for opportunities to collaborate with and support others committed to ending human trafficking.
Apostles Creed – We believe in God the Father Almighty; Maker of Heaven and Earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only (begotten) Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. We believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy Christian Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.”