3Ps: Prosecution, Protection, and Prevention

The “3P” paradigm – prosecution, protection, and prevention – continues to serve as the fundamental framework used around the world to combat human trafficking. The United States also follows this approach, reflected in the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (Palermo Protocol) to the United Nations Transnational Organized Crime Convention (UNTOC) and in the United States’ Trafficking Victims Protection Act, as amended (TVPA). The U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP Office) employs a range of diplomatic and programmatic tools to advance the 3P paradigm worldwide. In addition, a “fourth P” –partnership – serves as a complementary means to achieve progress across the 3Ps and ensure all segments of society are enlisted in the fight against modern slavery.


Under the frameworks set forth in both the Palermo Protocol and the TVPA, effective law enforcement action is an indispensable element of government efforts to fight trafficking. The Department of State evaluates whether governments prescribe a maximum prison sentence that is sufficiently stringent to deter the crime and adequately reflects the heinous nature of the offense. Consistent with the UNTOC, criminal penalties should prescribe a maximum sentence of at least four years’ deprivation of liberty for the crime of trafficking in persons. Imposed sentences should involve significant jail time, with a majority of a government’s convictions resulting in sentences of one year of imprisonment or more. Sentences should take into account the severity of an individual’s involvement in trafficking, sentences imposed for other grave crimes, and the judiciary’s right to impose punishments consistent with that country’s laws.

The TIP Office works with its interagency and law enforcement partners within the U.S. government, as well as with NGOs around the world, to assist other governments with the drafting and implementation of adequate anti-trafficking laws and the vigorous prosecution of traffickers.


Protection is key to the victim-centered approach that the United States and the international community take in their efforts to combat modern slavery. Effective victim protection entails identifying victims, providing referrals for a comprehensive array of services, providing those services, and supporting survivors as they rebuild their lives.

Identifying victims is a critical first step in ensuring their ability to receive the support and resources they need. Proactive identification efforts and training for first responders are critically important to a government’s ability to combat human trafficking. After identification, governments should make the rights and needs of victims a priority to ensure that protection efforts restore a survivor’s dignity and provide an opportunity for a safe and productive life. The TIP Office works to build the capacity of governments and NGOs to enhance victim protection in countries worldwide.

To effectively protect foreign national trafficking victims, governments should enable them to remain in the country, work, and obtain services without fear of detention or deportation for lack of legal status or because of crimes that their traffickers forced them to commit. In addition, governments should ease the process for victims to secure immigration relief. Safeguards should be put in place to ensure the security of victims as well as their family members who may be at risk of intimidation or retaliation from traffickers.

Adequate victim protection requires effective partnerships between law enforcement and service providers not only immediately after identification, but also throughout a victim’s participation in criminal justice or civil proceedings.

Comprehensive victim services include emergency and long-term services; intensive case management, housing, food, medical and dental care, and legal assistance; and access to educational, vocational, and economic opportunities for survivors of modern slavery. Efforts to support foreign national victims of trafficking as they rebuild their lives include voluntary repatriation for trafficking victims and assistance in their home communities.


Prevention efforts are a key component of the global movement to combat human trafficking. Historically, efforts focused on public awareness campaigns to inform and educate communities in source and destination countries about human trafficking to better identify victims and warn migrants and other vulnerable populations.

Today, prevention encapsulates cross-cutting endeavors, such as amending labor laws so they do not omit certain classes of workers from coverage; robustly enforcing labor laws, particularly in sectors where trafficking is most typically found; implementing measures, such as birth registration, that reduce vulnerabilities to trafficking; developing and monitoring labor recruitment programs to protect workers from exploitation; strengthening partnerships among law enforcement, government, and NGOs; emphasizing effective policy implementation with stronger enforcement, better reporting, and government-endorsed business standards; monitoring supply chains to address forced labor; and working to reduce demand for commercial sex.

Additionally, recent innovations in private sector engagement on trafficking in persons hold potential to advance prevention efforts. A new push for corporate accountability calls on companies to focus additional attention on their supply chains, specifically to assess the recruitment of their workforce and that of their suppliers, including those harvesting, collecting, or mining raw materials. By adopting responsible practices, such as those reflected in Executive Order 13627, “Strengthening Protections Against Trafficking in Persons in Federal Contracts,” government procurement and private sector actors can help mitigate risks and prevent human trafficking.

Prosecution, protection, and prevention efforts are closely intertwined. Indeed, the effectiveness of the 3Ps lies in the fact that they reinforce and complement each other. Prosecution, for example, acts as a deterrent, potentially preventing the occurrence of human trafficking. Likewise, protection can empower those who have been exploited so that they are not re-victimized once they re-enter society, thus deterring the occurrence of human trafficking. A victim-centered prosecution that enables a survivor to participate in the prosecution is integral to protection efforts. The TIP Office works year-round to assess government efforts and advocate for more effective responses and to support international organizations and NGOs dedicated to combating human trafficking around the world.