U.S. Department of Justice

PREA / Offender Sexual Abuse

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The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA, P.L. 108-79) was enacted by Congress to address the problem of sexual abuse of persons in the custody of U.S. correctional agencies. The National Institute of Corrections has been a leader in this topic area since 2004, providing assistance to many agencies through information and training resources.

Major provisions of PREA include:

  • Adherence to a zero-tolerance standard for the incidence of inmate sexual assault and rape;
  • Development of standards for detection, prevention, reduction, and punishment of prison rape;
  • Collection and dissemination of information on the incidence of prison rape; and
  • Award of grant funds to help state and local governments implement the purposes of the Act.


The Act applies to all public and private institutions that house adult or juvenile offenders and is also relevant to community-based agencies. It addresses both inmate-on-inmate sexual abuse and staff sexual misconduct. On June 23, 2009, the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission released and forwarded to the U.S. Attorney General its final report and proposed standards to prevent, detect, respond to and monitor sexual abuse of incarcerated and detained individuals. Based on the Attorney General's independent judgment, a final rule was published to the Federal Register on June 20, 2012. Links to the Federal Register, the Commission report and executive summary, the final standards, and other relevant documents are provided in the "Related Web Sites" sidebar to the left.

Recommended Reading

Date Title Type
2012
Document 024657
Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) Resources
National Institute of Corrections (Washington, DC); The Moss Group, Inc. (Washington, DC).
This DVD contains NIC videos, DOJ proposed standards, an NIC e-course and dozens of documents to help you learn about the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). The disc includes:
The following videos:
  • Facing Prison Rape: How the Prison Rape Elimination Act Affects You (2004)
  • Responding to Prisoner Rape: Assessing Your Agency's Response to Prison Sexual Assault--in English and Spanish (2005)
  • Keeping Our Kids Safe: PREA and Juvenile Justice (2006)
And... Read More
VIDEO
1 data DVD
2013
Document 027514
Recommendations for Administrators of Prisons, Jails, and Community Confinement Facilities for Adapting the U.S. Department of Justice’s “A National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations, Adults/Adolescents”
U.S. Dept. of Justice. Office of Violence Against Women (OVW) (Washington, DC).
“This guide is designed to assist administrators of prisons, jails, and community confinement facilities in drafting or revising protocols for an immediate response to reports of sexual assault. Sexual assault is a persistent problem in correctional environments with life-altering consequences for victims as well as for the integrity of correctional institutions and the fundamental principles of justice. The U.S. Department of Justice’s “National Standards to Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Pris... Read More
PDF
66 pages
2013
Document 026880
Implementing the Prison Rape Elimination Act: Toolkit for Jails
National Institute of Corrections (Washington, DC); NIC-12RE05GKJ5.. The Moss Group, Inc. (Washington, DC).
UPDATED 11/26/13: Minor edits. “The goal of this Toolkit is to provide jails of all sizes, political divisions, and geographic locations with a step-by-step guide for preventing, detecting, and eliminating sexual abuse of inmates in their custody – and for responding effectively to abuse when it occurs. Prison rape includes all forms of inmate sexual abuse within a correctional facility, including state and federal prisons, county and municipal jails, police lock-ups, holding facilities, inmate ... Read More
PDF
1 computer file
2014
Document 028164
PREA Data Collection Activities, 2014
By Beck, Allen J.. U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) (Washington, DC).
"During 2013 and the first 4 months of 2014, BJS issued four reports: In May 2013, BJS published estimates of sexual victimization based on reports by inmates in adult prisons and jails; in June 2013, BJS published estimates of sexual victimization based on reports of youth held in juvenile facilities; and in January 2014, BJS issued two reports analyzing administrative records of sexual victimization in adult correctional facilities based on the Survey of Sexual Violence (SSV). In addition, BJS... Read More
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5 pages
2013
Document 026881
Implementing the Prison Rape Elimination Act: Toolkit for Juvenile Agencies and Facilities
NIC-12RE05GKJ5; National Institute of Corrections (Washington, DC). The Moss Group, Inc. (Washington, DC).
“The goal of this Toolkit is to provide juvenile agencies and facilities of all sizes, political divisions, and geographic locations with a step-by-step guide for preventing, detecting, and eliminating sexual abuse of residents in their custody – and for responding effectively to abuse when it occurs. Prison rape includes all forms of resident sexual abuse within a correctional facility, including state and federal prisons, county and municipal jails, police lock-ups, holding facilities, residen... Read More
ZIP
1 computer file
2013
Document 027302
Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails Reported by Inmates, 2011–12
By Beck, Allen J.; Berzofsky, Marcus; Caspar, Rachel; Krebs, Christopher. U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (Washington, DC).
This report presents statistics regarding the sexual victimization of prison and jail inmates by other inmates or staff. Sections of this publication cover: highlights; National Inmate Survey; incidents of sexual victimizations; facility-level rates; demographic and other characteristics; special inmate populations—inmates ages 16 to 17; special inmate populations—inmates with mental health problems; and special inmate populations—inmates with a non-heterosexual sexual orientation. Some of the k... Read More
PDF
108 pages

Related Resources

Date Title Type
2016
Document 031477
Sexual Victimization Reported By Juvenile Correctional Authorities, 2007–12
By Beck, Allen J.; Rantala, Romana R.. U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) (Washington, DC).
This report "presents national estimates of nonconsensual sexual acts, abusive sexual contacts, staff sexual misconduct, and staff sexual harassment reported by correctional authorities in state juvenile correctional systems and local and private juvenile correctional facilities from 2007 to 2012. The report also examines substantiated incidents, including characteristics of victims and perpetrators, location, time of day, nature of injuries, impact on the victims, and sanctions imposed on the p... Read More

27 pages
2016
Document 031477
Sexual Victimization Reported By Juvenile Correctional Authorities, 2007–12
By Beck, Allen J.; Rantala, Romana R.. U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) (Washington, DC).
This report "presents national estimates of nonconsensual sexual acts, abusive sexual contacts, staff sexual misconduct, and staff sexual harassment reported by correctional authorities in state juvenile correctional systems and local and private juvenile correctional facilities from 2007 to 2012. The report also examines substantiated incidents, including characteristics of victims and perpetrators, location, time of day, nature of injuries, impact on the victims, and sanctions imposed on the p... Read More

27 pages
2016
Document 031478
Survey of Sexual Violence in Juvenile Correctional Facilities, 2007–2012 - Statistical Tables
By Rantala, Ramona R.; Beck, Allen J.. U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) (Washington, DC).
"This report presents "jurisdiction- and facility-level counts of allegations and substantiated incidents of nonconsensual sexual acts, abusive sexual contact, staff sexual misconduct, and staff sexual harassment reported by juvenile correctional authorities from 2007 to 2012. Facilities include state juvenile systems, juvenile facilities in Indian country, and sampled locally and privately operated juvenile correctional facilities. These tables accompany Sexual Victimization Reported by Juvenil... Read More

71 pages
2015
Document 031507
Using a Prevention, Trauma-Informed Framework when Implementing PREA
By National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors. U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) (Washington, DC). National PREA Resource Center (Washington, DC); National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD) (Alexandria, VA).
"This video training series was designed to provide an important foundation for understanding trauma, the implications of trauma on the behaviors of inmates while in confinement, and how correctional administrators and practitioners can use this information to support successful PREA implementation and ultimately provide a safer environment for inmates and staff … Through considering the role that past and present trauma plays in building safe – and particularly sexually safe – environments, cor... Read More

95 minutes + 5 pages
2015
Document 031209
Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA)
Pennsylvania Dept. of Corrections (Mechanicsburg, PA).
"It is the policy of the Department to prohibit any form of sexual abuse and/or sexual harassment of an offender. The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections has zero tolerance for sexual abuse or sexual harassment of any individual under the supervision of the Department. Anyone who engages in, fails to report, or knowingly condones sexual harassment or sexual abuse of an offender shall be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination, and may be subject to criminal prosecution... Read More

57 pages
2015
Document 030143
Untangling the PREA Standards: Outside Reporting, Confidential Support, and Third-Party Reporting Fact Sheet
Just Detention International (Los Angeles, CA); National PREA Resource Center (Washington, DC).
"In developing the PREA [Prison Rape Elimination Act] standards, the Department of Justice ensured that inmates/detainees/residents have multiple ways to report sexual abuse, and that they are able to access victim support services from outside agencies. The purpose of this fact sheet is to clarify the various external reporting methods that the standards require detention facilities to put in place, and that are separate from the internal reporting mechanisms described in the standard §115.51(a... Read More

15 pages
2015
Document 029778
Why Americans Don't Care About Prison Rape And What Happens When the Problem Escapes from Behind Bars
By Bruenig, Elizabeth Stoker.
This article is an excellent analysis of why the general public accepts prison rape. It also address the impact prison rape has on the community. Topics discussed include: the housing of juveniles in adult facilities and their rape by those inmates; toleration and subtle appreciation of prison rape; the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) of 2003; more sexual assaults due to staff than other inmates according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS); factors that make the risk of victimization g... Read More
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5 pages
2015
Document 030183
Ending Sexual Abuse Behind the Walls: An Orientation
By Parsell, T.J., author and director; Clifton, Emily Gumpel, editor.
This is an orientation video for new inmates. The film features experienced inmates and staff providing guidance based on the question "what do you wish you had known when you first got to prison" as part of DOCCS’ effort to prevent sexual abuse. The discussion includes information about what to do if you are sexually threatened or raped, and the sexual abuse investigation process. The film focuses on every inmate's right to be free from sexual victimization and provides tips to avoid the manipu... Read More

21 pages|Female version - 20 minutes|Male version - 24 minutes
2015
Document 029843
Keeping Vulnerable Populations Safe under PREA: Alternative Strategies to the Use of Segregation in Prisons and Jails
By Hastings, Allison; Browne, Angela; Kall, Kaitlin; diZerega, Margaret. U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) (Washington, DC). National PREA Resource Center (Washington, DC); Vera Institute of Justice (New York, NY).
"The purpose of this guide is to provide prison and jail administrators and staff with strategies for safely housing inmates at risk of sexual abuse without isolating them. Inmates at risk for sexual victimization—whether identified through screening or victimized in confinement—need protection from abusers, equal access to programming and health and mental health services, and congregate opportunities" (p. 3). Sections of this document include: introduction; a brief look at the use of segregate... Read More

23 pages
2015
Document 031227
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth in the Juvenile Justice System
By Wilber, Shannan. Annie E. Casey Foundation. Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) (Baltimore, mD).
The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) and other "changes in law and policy have created new expectations of juvenile justice personnel. Implementation of these new requirements, however, varies widely across the country and has created a demand for clear professional guidance. This practice guide is a response to that demand and: provides an overview of key concepts and terminology related to SOGIE; summarizes the research on the effect of stigma and bias on the health and well-being of LGBT yo... Read More

52 pages
2015
Document 031356
Making PREA and victim services accessible for incarcerated people with disabilities: An implementation guide for practitioners on the adult and juvenile standards
By Harrell, Sandra; Hastings, Allison; DiZerega, Margaret. U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) (Washington, DC). National PREA Resource Center (Washington, DC); Vera Institute of Justice (New York ,NY).
The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) sets standards to ensure that information about PREA and victim services are accessible to people with disabilities. The purpose of this guide is to provide strategies to correctional agencies that will aid their compliance with these PREA requirements. The strategies discussed in this guide draw on established practices used by victim service organizations—both community-based and those based in government agencies—to make their services more accessible fo... Read More

32 pages
2015
Document 030019
PREA Data Collection Activities, 2015
By Beck, Allen. U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) (Washington, DC).
"The report summarizes BJS's efforts during 2014 and the first 5 months of 2015, which included analyzing administrative records of sexual victimization in adult correctional facilities based on the Survey of Sexual Violence (SSV), implementing changes to the SSV and completing data collection, and, for the first time, providing estimates of the rates of sexual victimization among transgender inmates" … Some of the highlights from this profile include: administrators of adult correctional facili... Read More

5 pages

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Available Training Opportunities

  • Available Online - Prison Rape Elimination Act
    These six courses will assist agencies and staff in meeting the requirements of Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA).
  • Available Online - PREA: Preventing and Addressing Sexual Abuse in Tribal Detention Facilities
    The National Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) Standards were released in 2012 to provide comprehensive guidance on the prevention, detection, and response to sexual abuse and violence within confinement settings across the country. Although the National PREA Standards do not specifically extend to tribal detention facilities, all confinement facilities, regardless of their obligations under PREA, are being held to a higher legal standard for the prevention of and response to sexual abuse and could potentially face increased civil penalties if they fail to do so. This course was adapted from a course developed for the National PREA Resource Center in partnership with the American Probation and Parole Association, and will provide you with guidelines and practices that will help you to prevent and address sexual abuse in your tribal detention facility. Estimated duration: 3 hours.
  • Available Online - Your Role: Responding to Sexual Abuse
    This e-course is designed to enhance correctional professionals’ skills in responding to incidents and allegations of sexual abuse.
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