The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA) established a federal commission to draft national standards to address sexual assault in confinement settings. PREA also required the U.S. Attorney General to promulgate regulations based on the standards that apply to all federal, state, and local confinement settings, including juvenile detention, lockups, and community confinement. The PRC, administered by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency through a cooperative agreement from the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance, helps correctional facilities comply with PREA and the federal regulations.

The PRC is the national source for corrections and law enforcement professionals looking for information or technical assistance to support their efforts to eliminate sexual assault in confinement settings. As a partner with the PRC, Vera produces the PREA in Action Series, provides technical assistance to jurisdictions through the PRC’s field-initiated technical assistance program, and develops resources and implementation guides to help correctional agencies comply with the standards.

The PREA in Action Series provides corrections practitioners and others with real world examples of PREA implementation. Each case study focuses on a different PREA-related topic, showcases systems that are doing constructive work in that area, and features an accompanying webinar. The case studies are web-based and featured on the PRC’s website. The goal of the series is to share information, success stories, and lessons learned. Vera has produced PREA in Action case studies and webinars on a range of topics, including screening, implementing the youthful inmate standard, establishing partnerships with community-based victim advocates, and the audit process.

Why this project matters

With the release of the U.S Department of Justice’s National Standards to Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Prison Rape, correctional systems around the country are exploring sexual assault prevention, detection, and response strategies. Vera’s PREA in Action Series and forthcoming implementation guides provide much-needed help and information to agencies working to comply with PREA. Each case study and accompanying webinar facilitates peer education about what works to combat sexual assault, what challenges exist, and what resources agencies can use to aid their sexual assault prevention, detection, and response efforts. Vera’s two forthcoming implementation guides will provide agencies with strategies for implementing the PREA standards that: 1) place restrictions on the use of isolating conditions for inmates who screen at risk for sexual victimization and 2) require agencies to make PREA information and services accessible to inmates with disabilities.

Preventing, detecting, and responding to sexual assault can be one piece of a larger effort to professionalize and change the culture of correctional institutions. Vera has been involved in this work since 2006, assisting the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission to develop draft standards and a final report. Since that time, the field has made notable progress, as the PREA in Action case studies highlight, yet the problem persists.