Please note that Standards referenced throughout this FAQ often apply to multiple sets of PREA Standards. Along with different standard numbers, the different sets of standards use different terminology to refer to the population they house including “inmate,” “detainee,” and “resident.” When referencing a standard that applies equally to all facilities covered under PREA, the language in the question and answer will, unless specified, refer to the Adult Prisons & Jails standard numbers and use the term “inmate” to refer generally to the populations in those facilities. The FAQ search functionality uses the standard numbering from the Adult Prisons and Jails, regardless of the specific setting. When a standard is selected, the search will identify all FAQs related to that standard across all standard settings.

The “Expand All” link will reveal all FAQ search results. To print the results, use the "Print Selection" button, which expands all of them automatically in the printed document. If you want to see all unfiltered results, use the "Reset" button to remove previous selections.

Search DOJ FAQ


What inmate education and information must be available to inmates before an external reporting mechanism may be considered compliant with PREA Standard 115.51(b) and PREA Standard 115.33?


PREA Standard 115.33(a) requires that “[d]uring the intake process, inmates shall receive information explaining…how to report incidents or suspicions of sexual abuse or sexual harassment.” PREA Standard 115.33(f) requires that agencies “ensure that key information is continuously and readily available or visible to inmates through posters, inmate handbooks, or other written formats.”

One item that is generally considered to be “key information” is the ability of inmates to “to report abuse or harassment to a public or private entity or office that is not part of the agency, and that is able to receive and immediately forward inmate reports of sexual abuse and sexual harassment to agency officials, allowing inmates to remain anonymous upon request.” See PREA Standard 115.51(b).

Pursuant to these Standards, the general requirements include:

  • Clear and accurate information about which reporting mechanisms satisfy the external reporting requirement;
  • Information must be readily accessible to inmates and available from multiple sources (e.g. signs, admission and orientation materials, etc.);
  • Information must be consistent among the multiple sources; and
  • How to utilize the reporting mechanisms, if the inmate wishes to remain anonymous.

By contrast, the following three examples illustrate scenarios that are not consistent with these standards:

  1. The facility informs inmates only that they “may report sexual abuse or sexual harassment by: (1) telling any staff member, (2) filing a grievance, (3) sending a note to the PREA Compliance Manager, or (4) contacting the PREA hotline at 555-555-5555.” 

This does not satisfy PREA Standard 115.33 or PREA Standard 115.51(b) because the facility does not indicate which avenue, if any, is the external reporting entity. While an inmate could “guess” that the PREA hotline is an external reporting entity, it is at least equally likely that the PREA hotline is an internal agency contact. In addition, there is no indication of how the inmate may request anonymity.

  1. The facility informs inmates only that they “may report sexual abuse or sexual harassment to the State OIG, an external entity, by calling the PREA hotline at #55. Inmates may request anonymity – that their identity will not be provided to agency personal.” However, inmates are required to enter their identification number prior to gaining access to any call, and facility signage above the phones indicates that “all calls are subject to monitoring and recording by facility staff.”

This does not satisfy PREA Standards 115.33 or PREA Standard 115.51(b) because inmates are provided with conflicting information, and there is no reasonable basis to believe that the State OIG permits anonymity.

  1. The facility provides all inmates with a handbook at intake that, among other things, informs them that they “may report sexual abuse or sexual harassment by writing to the State OIG, an external reporting entity, at 555 Maple Lane, Capital, State 55555. To do so, inmates must request a prepaid envelope from their Unit Manager. All outgoing mail is subject to inspection by staff. Mail will not be accepted without the inmate’s name and identification number on the envelope.”

This does not satisfy PREA Standard 115.33 or PREA Standard 115.51(b) because there is no information informing inmates about their ability, or how, to request anonymity. In addition, the procedures listed in the handbook would lead most inmates to believe that their report could not be anonymous.

It is important to note that some agencies change their mechanism for inmates to make external reports pursuant to PREA Standard 51(b) over the course of time. When this happens, agencies should ensure that older signage, handbooks, and other educational materials are updated appropriately. It is not uncommon for facilities to maintain legacy information for inmates describing two or more different external reporting mechanisms, even while some of those mechanisms no longer exist. The presence of conflicting and outdated information for inmates on this issue creates confusion and diminishes the effectiveness of this important reporting avenue, and could potentially lead a PREA auditor to find noncompliance.

Finally, inmate education materials and staff training often provide conflated and confusing information regarding how inmates may access the external reporting entity pursuant to PREA Standard 115.51(b), and how to access outside confidential support services pursuant to PREA Standard 115.53. These standards serve different purposes, and each has distinct requirements (e.g., anonymity versus confidentiality). In addition, confidential emotional support service providers are typically not appropriate entities to serve as the external reporting entity. Accordingly, it is important that educational materials make clear the purpose and mechanisms for each of these services, so they are not conflated.

Standard: 115.33, 115.51
Categories: Inmate Education

Can inmate peer educators be used to deliver the inmate information and education requirements of standard 115.33? If so, under what circumstances and are there any limitations?


Peer education models have been successful in certain confinement settings because sensitive information may be more readily accepted when presented by someone that inmates can identify with, such as a fellow inmate. Sexual abuse is a difficult subject to talk about. It may be easier for inmates to learn about it from their peers, rather than from a staff member. Inmates may be more likely to trust in policies and practices conveyed through peer-led classes than those delivered by staff. Peer educators can make the education presentations more relatable and easier to understand for their peers. PREA standard 115.33 requires generally that inmates receive certain information regarding the agency’s sexual abuse- and sexual harassment-prevention policies and procedures during the intake process, and comprehensive inmate education regarding sexual abuse and harassment prevention and response mechanisms within 30 days of intake.

The PREA standards provide some limitations on an agency’s use of inmate assistants. Specifically, in the context of sexual abuse allegations, incident response, and investigations, the standards prohibit the reliance:

On inmate interpreters, inmate readers, or other types of inmate assistants except in limited circumstances where an extended delay in obtaining an effective interpreter could compromise the inmate’s safety, the performance of first-response duties under standard 115.64, or the investigation of the inmate’s allegations. See 28 C.F.R. § 115.16(c).

However, DOJ has determined that a properly developed and executed inmate peer education program does not violate this provision for purposes of providing the inmate education required by standard 115.33. Consistent with the theme of the PREA standards requiring staff, contractors, and volunteers who have contact with inmates to be screened, trained, and supervised, so too must any inmate peer educators. Inmate peer educators must be effectively screened for appropriateness, be effectively trained in the requirements of the standard, utilize an effective inmate education curriculum, and be effectively supervised by qualified staff.

When determining compliance with standard 115.33 where an agency relies upon an inmate peer education program, DOJ-certified auditors will examine the effectiveness of the program by, among other things, interviewing inmate recipients of the peer education training program to ensure that the recipients received training consistent with the requirements of the standard.

Standard: 115.16, 115.33, 115.64
Categories: Inmate Education

In adult prisons and jails, can adult inmates provide inmate peer education to juvenile inmates?


No.  Under the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), juveniles may not have sight or sound contact with adult inmates in any institution.  See 42 USC 5601 et seq.  Moreover, in any facility that houses juvenile residents, adult inmate trustees may not have sight or sound contact with residents in a juvenile facility. Thus, should an agency that oversees adult and juvenile commitments for a given state decide to utilize peer educators from its adult prison system, such peer educators could not educate juvenile residents, in either a juvenile facility or an adult facility.  Even where a state agency does not have jurisdiction over adult and juvenile corrections, a program whereby adult inmates are transported to a juvenile prison to provide face-to-face peer education on any topic would violate the JJDPA.

Standard: 115.14, 115.15, 115.33
Categories: Definitions, Inmate Education, Youthful Inmates

In adult prisons and jails, can inmates over the age of 17 provide inmate peer education to youthful inmates (age 17 and under)?


Under certain defined parameters, yes.  In adult prisons and jails, youthful inmates are generally prohibited from having contact with inmates over the age of 17.  See 28 C.F.R. §115.14.  However, youthful inmates may have contact with inmates over the age of 17 outside of housing units if there is direct staff supervisionDirect staff supervision means that security staff are in the same room with, and within reasonable hearing distance of, the resident or inmate.  See 28 C.F.R. § 115.5.  Accordingly, the adult prison and jail standards do not prohibit inmate peer education by inmates over the age of 17 to younger inmates if the education occurs outside inmate housing units and there is direct staff supervision during the education process.

Standard: 115.14, 115.33, 115.5
Categories: Definitions, Inmate Education, Youthful Inmates