The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), a federal law enacted in 2003, was created to eliminate sexual abuse in confinement. In addition to providing federal funding for research, programs, training, and technical assistance to address the issue, the legislation mandated the development of national standards. The National Prison Rape Elimination Commission developed recommended national standards for reducing prison rape. The final standards became effective on June 20, 2012, when they were published by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the Federal Register. More recently, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released proposed standards for DHS confinement facilities.
The PREA Resource Center (PRC) designed this PREA Essentials Page to guide professionals in their implementation of specific standards; therefore, this page is organized by standards categories, e.g., “prevention planning.”
Each category contains: (1) a brief synopsis summarizing the standards in that category, (2) links to an online version of those standards, (3) links to helpful resources related to those standards sorted by correctional facility type, and (4) where relevant, a discussion of some key issues raised by those particular standards. The issues and resources included here are not exhaustive, but rather offer a snapshot of those that may be of particular interest to practitioners working to comply with the standards. For specific questions regarding interpretation of the standards, please visit the PRC FAQs or contact the PRC.
For definitions related to the standards, click on the applicable standards to be connected to the General Definitions standard. It is important to read these definitions in order to gain a better understanding of their application to the standards (see p. 37199).
One additional organization note: The standards are numbered to help differentiate the correctional settings to which they apply. Standards with a two-digit extension such as .13 are for prisons and jails. Standards with a three-digit extension beginning with .1 followed by two digits, i.e., .113, are for lockups. Standards with a three-digit extension beginning with .2, i.e., .213, are for community confinement. Standards with a three-digit extension beginning with .3, i.e., .313, are for juvenile facilities.
For statistical data on the incidence of sexual abuse in various confinement settings, see Data and Statistics in the PRC library.
The prevention planning standards cover a variety of topics designed to aid in the prevention of sexual abuse in confinement. These topics include zero tolerance, the PREA coordinator, contracting with other entities for confinement, supervision and monitoring, juveniles and youthful inmates or detainees, limits to cross-gender viewing and searches, inmates, detainees, and residents with disabilities or who are limited English proficient, hiring and promotion decisions, and upgrades to facilities and technologies.
For adult facilities, Standard 115.13/115.113/115.213 does not include concrete staffing requirements nor does it require direct supervision. However, agencies must provide staffing that ensures adequate supervision, taking into consideration several factors in calculating adequate staffing levels and determining the need for video monitoring. Factors for prisons and jails include:
The listed factors are not exclusive; facilities should consider additional issues that are common across correctional facilities and pertinent to the characteristics of each specific facility, as well as findings from reports and empirical studies relevant to sexual abuse issued by DOJ, academia, or professional sources. The final determination as to adequate staffing levels remains at the discretion of the facility or agency administration.
A shorter list of factors for consideration is required for lockups and community confinement facilities, specifically:
At least annually, or more frequently if necessary, facilities must reassess, determine, and document whether adjustments to the staffing plan or resources devoted to supervision and monitoring are needed, making any necessary adjustments.
Standard 115.13 requires prisons and jails to use ‘‘best efforts to comply on a regular basis’’ with the staffing plan. While this language does not appear in 115.113 or 115.213, all adult facilities must document and justify deviations from the staffing plan. Full compliance with the plan is not required to achieve compliance with the standard. DOJ determined that requiring ‘‘best efforts’’ is more appropriate to avoid penalizing agencies that unsuccessfully seek to obtain additional funds.
For secure juvenile facilities, Standard 115.313 requires a minimum staffing ratio of 1:8 for supervision during resident waking hours and 1:16 during resident sleeping hours. These ratios include only security staff. Agencies may depart from these minimum ratios during limited and discrete exigent circumstances, which must be fully documented for audit purposes.
Non-secure juvenile facilities are not required to maintain a minimum staffing ratio.
In order to provide agencies with sufficient time to readjust staffing levels and, if necessary, request additional funding, any facility that, as of June 20, 2012, is not already obligated by law, regulation, or judicial consent decree to maintain the required staffing ratios shall have until October 1, 2017, to achieve compliance. Additionally, DOJ invites public comment on 115.313(c) though the Final Rule is still in effect.
Although DOJ encourages the use of continuous, direct supervision, the standards do not require direct supervision in secure juvenile facilities in recognition that major, costly renovations would be required to adapt some physical plants to the direct supervision model. For more on this issue, please visit the PRC FAQ page.
For youth housed in adult facilities, however, the standards are clear in their requirements regarding direct supervision. See youthful inmates below.
The standards define a youthful inmate as “any person under the age of 18 who is under adult court supervision and incarcerated or detained in a prison or jail.” Standard 115.14 requires adult prisons and jails to house youthful inmates separately from adult inmates. However, agencies may manage this population outside of a housing unit if supervised directly by staff.
Facilities and agencies have flexibility in complying with this standard. For example, they can:
Agencies may, of course, combine these approaches as they see fit. For more on this issue, please visit the PRC FAQ page.
At its most basic, Standard 115.15/115.115/115.215/115.315 has three parts.
In order to mitigate agency burdens for implementing the staffing changes that the PREA standards may require for jails, prisons, and community confinement facilities, DOJ has provided that agencies will have additional time to comply with this particular standard (August 2015, or August 2017 for facilities whose rated capacity is less than 50 inmates). For more on this issue, please visit the PRC FAQ page.
Standard 115.17/115.117/115.217/115.317 prohibits agencies from hiring or promoting any employee or contractor who may have contact with inmates, detainees, or residents who:
The standard also requires agencies to consider any incidents of sexual harassment in making decisions regarding employees and contractors and to provide information regarding such incidents to possible future institutional employers unless prohibited by law. The standard includes requirements for obtaining this information about prospective and current employees and contractors, including mandating that at least every five years agencies conduct criminal background checks of current employees and contractors who have contact with inmates, detainees, or residents. Additionally, for juvenile settings, Standard 115.317 requires a check of any child abuse registry maintained by the state or locality in which the employee would work.
 National Standards to Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Prison Rape, 77 Fed. Reg. 119 (June 20, 2012) http://www.prearesourcecenter.org/sites/default/files/library/2012-12427.pdf; For the operative definition of “institution,” see the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), 42 U.S.C. §1997.
The responsive planning standards require agencies to take steps to ensure that all incidents of sexual abuse are investigated and that victims of sexual abuse have access to forensic medical exams and rape crisis advocates. Agencies that are unable to provide access to rape crisis advocates must document their efforts to secure advocacy services and provide access instead to either a qualified staff member from a community-based organization or a qualified agency staff member.
Standard 115.21/115.121/115.221/115.321 broadly requires agencies to follow a uniform evidence protocol adapted from the DOJ’s Office on Violence Against Women publication, “A National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations, Adults/Adolescents – Second Edition,” or another similarly comprehensive and authoritative protocol developed after 2011. Within that broad mandate, the standard contains two of the PREA standards’ specific requirements for ensuring a victim-centered response to an incident of sexual abuse at a correctional facility:
Whether conducted onsite or at a medical facility, the standard instructs correctional facilities to use a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) or Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE) to perform exams where possible. Facilities in areas where no SANE or SAFE is available must document efforts to find SANEs or SAFEs and then provide other qualified medical professionals for the exams. The standard further requires facilities to use a developmentally appropriate protocol for youth. Since no national protocol for pediatric sexual assault exists, contact your local sexual assault or domestic violence coalitions to inquire about your state’s protocol. To find state-level coalitions, visit this website.
Recognizing the unique role of rape crisis center advocates in providing support, crisis intervention, information, and referrals to victims throughout the forensic medical exam process and ensuing investigation(s), Standard 115.21/115.221/115.321 requires facilities to attempt to secure advocacy services from rape crisis centers for victims of sexual abuse in confinement. For lockups, the requirement is slightly different. Standard 115.121 states that if a detainee is sent to an outside hospital for a forensic medical exam and that hospital offers victim advocacy services, the detainee must be permitted to use those services to the extent available, consistent with security needs.
Prisons, jails, community confinement facilities, and juvenile facilities in rural or other areas without rape crisis centers are required to document their efforts to locate advocacy services and are given the option of substituting a qualified staff member from a community-based organization or a qualified agency staff member for a rape crisis advocate. If a facility uses a qualified staff member from a community-based social services organization or agency staff, it must screen that person for appropriateness and ensure that he or she receives education concerning sexual abuse issues and forensic exams.
These standards set out the requirements for training and educating employees, volunteers, contractors, inmates, residents, detainees, staff who investigate sexual abuse, and medical and mental health staff. The resources below offer information and curricula for training the different audiences. See below for links to the standards and helpful resources.
Standard 115.31/115.131/115.231/115.331 requires agencies to train all employees who have contact with inmates/detainees/residents on specific topics related to sexual abuse and sexual harassment. Agencies must provide refresher training every two years. Standard 115.32/115.132/115.232/115.332 requires agencies to train all volunteers and contractors who have contact with inmates/detainees/residents on their responsibilities under the agency’s sexual abuse and sexual harassment policies and procedures. Under the standards, agencies may tailor the level and type of training provided to volunteers and contractors based on how much contact they have with inmates/detainees/residents.
Recognizing that conducting investigations of sexual abuse in confinement settings requires specialized knowledge and skills, Standard 115.34/115.134/115.234/115.334 mandates specialized training for agency investigators that conduct those investigations. The standard requires training on techniques for interviewing sexual abuse victims, proper use of Miranda and Garrity warnings, sexual abuse evidence collection in confinement settings, and the criteria and evidence required to substantiate a case for administrative action or prosecution referral. Standard 115.35/115.235/115.335 similarly requires specialized training for medical and mental health care practitioners in prisons, jails, community confinement facilities, and juvenile facilities. Such practitioners are required to be trained on how to detect and assess signs of sexual abuse and sexual harassment, how to preserve physical evidence of sexual abuse, how to respond to victims, and how and to whom to report allegations and suspicions of sexual abuse and sexual harassment.
Standard 115.33/115.233 requires agencies to provide information on the agency’s zero tolerance policy regarding sexual abuse and sexual harassment and how to report incidents to inmates/residents upon intake. Within 30 days of intake, agencies must provide comprehensive education to inmates/residents either in person or through video on their right to be free from sexual abuse and sexual harassment, their right to be free from retaliation for reporting any incidents, and the agency’s response policies and procedures. For juvenile facilities, Standard 115.333 requires agencies to provide age-appropriate education within 10 days of intake. For lockups, Standard 115.132 requires agencies to notify detainees of the agency’s zero tolerance policy regarding sexual abuse and sexual harassment.
The standards require inmates, detainees, and residents to be screened for risk of being sexually abused or sexually abusive; that screening information must be used to inform housing, bed, work, education, and program assignments for inmates and residents. The goal is to keep those individuals at high risk of victimization away from those at high risk of committing abuse. However, facilities may not simply place victims in segregated housing against their will unless a determination has been made that no alternative means of separation is available, and even then only under specified conditions and with periodic reassessment. Standard 115.43/115.342 requires agencies to document instances when a decision is made to place someone in segregated housing.2
 This does not apply to community confinement facilities or lockups.
Standard 115.41/115.241 requires agencies to screen inmates/residents during intake and upon transfer to another facility for their risk of being sexually abused by other inmates/residents or sexually abusing other inmates/residents. Because no single, validated screening instrument grounded in research currently exists for this type of risk assessment, the standard requires agencies to use an objective, fact-based instrument containing specific criteria enumerated in the standard. Additionally, recognizing the potential danger of over-classifying people as vulnerable or abusive at intake, the standard requires agencies to reassess an inmate’s/resident’s risk of victimization or abusiveness within 30 days of his or her arrival at the facility. For more on this issue, please visit the PRC FAQ page.
The juvenile standard, 115.341, sets similar requirements but specifically calls on agencies to obtain information through conversations with each resident during the intake process, medical and mental health screenings, and the classification assessment; and from review of case files and other documentation. The juvenile standard also requires facilities to obtain and review information “periodically throughout a resident’s confinement,” rather than setting a 30-day deadline for reassessment.
Because of the short-term nature of lockups, Standard 115.141 sets more limited screening requirements. For lockups that house detainees overnight, staff are required to ask detainees about their own perception of vulnerability and to screen detainees for risk of sexual victimization using a short list of criteria. For lockups that do not house detainees overnight, staff must consider whether, based on the information before them, detainees are at risk of being sexually abused and take steps to keep those detainees safe.
Standard 115.42/115.242/115.3423 requires agencies to use the screening information obtained during intake to inform housing, bed, work, education, and program assignments with the goal of separating inmates and residents at high risk of being sexually victimized from those at high risk of being sexually abusive. In deciding whether to assign a transgender or intersex individual to a facility for males or females, and in making other housing and programming assignments, the standard prohibits agencies from making those assignments based solely on genital status. Rather, the agency must consider on a case-by-case basis whether a placement would ensure the inmate’s/resident’s health and safety and whether the placement would present management or security problems, giving serious consideration to the inmate’s/resident’s own views regarding his or her own safety. In addition, the standard mandates that transgender and intersex inmates and residents be given the opportunity to shower separately from other inmates and residents. For more on this issue, please visit the PRC FAQ page.
For juvenile facilities, Standard 115.342 makes clear that residents may only be isolated from others as a last resort when less restrictive measures are inadequate to keep them and other residents safe. When isolation is used, the standard mandates that juveniles not be denied daily large-muscle exercise or any legally required educational programming or special education services. Facilities are also required to provide daily visits from a medical or mental health clinician and to provide access to other programs and work opportunities to the extent possible.
 This standard does not apply to lockups.
The standards require agencies to provide at least two internal reporting avenues and at least one way to report abuse to a public or private entity or office that is not part of the agency in order to allow inmates, detainees, and residents to remain anonymous upon request. An agency must also provide a way for third parties to report such abuse on behalf of an inmate, detainee, or resident. In addition, agencies are required to provide inmates and residents with access to outside victim advocates for emotional support services related to sexual abuse by giving them contact information for local, state, or national victim advocacy or rape crisis organizations and by enabling reasonable communication between inmates/residents and these organizations, with as much confidentiality as possible.
Like the evidence protocol and forensic medical examinations standard (Standard 115.21/115.121/115.221/115/321), Standard 115.53/115.253/115.3534 recognizes the unique role of rape crisis center advocates in providing support, crisis intervention, information, and referrals to victims. This standard requires facilities to provide inmates and residents with access to victim advocates for emotional support services related to sexual abuse by supplying mailing addresses and telephone numbers of local, state, or national victim advocacy or rape crisis organizations. Facilities are required to provide access to immigrant services agencies for persons detained solely for civil immigration purposes in adult prisons, jails, or juvenile facilities. (Note that the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has released proposed standards for DHS confinement facilities.) The standard further requires facilities to enable reasonable communication between inmates/residents and these organizations, in as confidential a manner as possible. Juvenile facilities must also provide residents with reasonable access to their attorneys or other legal representation and to parents or legal guardians.
 This standard does not apply to lockups.
The standards governing an agency’s official response cover staff and agency reporting duties, the agency’s duty to protect someone at imminent risk of sexual abuse, the agency’s responsibility to report allegations of incidents occurring at another facility to that facility, staff first responder duties, coordinated response, prohibition on agreements that would limit the agency’s ability to separate alleged staff abusers from inmates/detainees/residents, and protection for staff and inmates/detainees/residents against retaliation for reporting sexual abuse or harassment.
Agencies that conduct their own investigations into sexual abuse or harassment must do so promptly, thoroughly, and objectively. The standards require investigations whenever such allegations are made, including third-party and anonymous reports, and prohibit the termination of an investigation on the grounds that the alleged abuser or victim is no longer employed or housed by the facility or agency. In addition, agencies must use investigators who have received special training in conducting sexual abuse investigations.
The standards set forth requirements for gathering and preserving evidence, conducting compelled interviews, determining witness credibility, conducting administrative and criminal investigations, making referrals for criminal prosecution, and retaining records. The standards also provide for situations in which outside investigators perform investigations.
The standards require that staff be subject to discipline for violating agency policies regarding sexual abuse, with termination the presumptive discipline for staff engagement in sexual abuse. For violations of agency policies relating to sexual abuse or sexual harassment (other than actually engaging in sexual abuse), the standards call for sanctions to be commensurate with the nature and circumstances of the acts committed, the staff member’s disciplinary history, and the sanctions imposed for comparable offenses by other staff with similar histories. Terminations or resignations linked to committing acts of sexual abuse or violating such policies are to be reported to law enforcement (unless the conduct was clearly not criminal) and relevant licensing bodies.
The standards require that all facilities provide timely, unimpeded access to emergency medical treatment and crisis intervention services, whose nature and scope are determined by practitioners according to their professional judgment. Inmate and resident victims of sexual abuse while incarcerated must be offered timely information about, and timely access to, emergency contraception and sexually transmitted infections prophylaxis, where medically appropriate.5 Where relevant, inmate and resident victims must also receive comprehensive information about, and timely access to, all lawful pregnancy-related medical services.6
 This section of the standard does not apply to lockups.
 This section of the standard does not apply to lockups.
Below are resources that can help guide efforts to provide appropriate medical and mental health care for victims of sexual abuse.
Agencies are required to collect and aggregate data regarding incidents of sexual abuse in order to detect possible patterns and to help prevent future incidents. This includes data from private facilities with which agencies contract for confinement. At a minimum, this data must include information sufficient to answer fully all questions in the most recent revision of the Survey of Sexual Violence (SSV) conducted by DOJ.
The standards require agencies to use the data to identify problem areas and take ongoing corrective action. They also require preparation of a publicly available, annual report for each facility and for the agency as a whole, comparing the current year’s data with data from prior years and providing an assessment of the agency’s progress in addressing sexual abuse. In addition, the standards govern the retention and publication of the underlying data on which the reports are based.
The Audit Instrument for Adult Prisons and Jails was released on May 3, 2013. The instrument includes the following documents:
Additional information about the audit process will continue to be posted on the PRC website as it is made available from DOJ.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex (LGBTI), and Gender-Nonconforming Inmates
The standards account in various ways for the particular vulnerabilities of inmates, detainees, and residents who are LGBTI or whose appearance or manner does not conform to traditional gender expectations. Standard 115.31/115.231/115.331 requires agencies to train employees in effective and professional communication with LGBTI and gender-nonconforming inmates and residents, and Standard 115.41/115.241/115.341 requires the screening process to consider whether the inmate or resident is, or is perceived to be, LGBTI or gender nonconforming.7 Standard 115.86/115.186/115.286/115.386 also requires that post-incident reviews consider whether the incident was motivated by LGBTI identification, status, or perceived status.
In addition, Standard 115.42/115.242/115.3428 prohibits agencies from placing LGBTI inmates and residents in dedicated facilities, units, or wings in adult prisons, jails, or community confinement facilities solely on the basis of such identification or status, unless such placement is in a dedicated facility, unit, or wing established in connection with a consent decree, legal settlement, or legal judgment for the purpose of protecting such inmates or residents. Such placement is not allowed at all in juvenile facilities. The standard also mandates that transgender and intersex inmates and residents be given the opportunity to shower separately from other inmates and residents.
Finally, the standards address some issues specific to transgender and intersex inmates, detainees, and residents. Standard 115.15/115.115/115.215/115.315 imposes a complete ban on searching or physically examining a transgender or intersex inmate/detainee/resident for the sole purpose of determining the person’s genital status. Agencies must train security staff in conducting professional and respectful cross-gender pat-down searches and searches of transgender and intersex individuals.
 In the lockup standards, Standards 115.131 and 115.141 do not specifically reference LGBTI identity or gender-nonconforming appearance. Standard 115.131 requires training on how to communicate effectively with all detainees, and Standard 115.141 requires staff to ask detainees about their own perceptions of vulnerability and to consider the physical build and appearance of detainees.
 This standard does not apply to lockups.
A healthy, safe correctional culture that prioritizes prevention, reporting, and swift response is the cornerstone of any organized effort to eliminate sexual abuse in confinement. While the individual standards do not set specific requirements for culture change, the adoption and implementation of the standards will assist greatly in developing such a culture by requiring agencies and facilities to institutionalize a set of policies and practices that, among other things, will elevate the importance of agency and facility responsibilities to protect against sexual abuse.
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