Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA)

What is PREA?

The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA) is the first federal law passed to address sexual violence in prisons and jails. PREA states that sexual assault in detention can constitute a violation of the eighth amendment of the U.S. Constitution and requires that facilities adopt a zero-tolerance approach to this form of abuse. PREA’s requirements apply to all detention facilities, including federal and state prisons, jails, police lock-ups, private facilities, and immigration detention centers.

PREA created the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission (NPREC), which was charged with recommending to the Attorney General standards for responding to and preventing sexual violence in confinement. After reviewing the proposed standards and receiving input, the Attorney General published the final rule containing these standards for public comment in May 2012, and it became effective on August 20, 2012. The standards apply to federal and state prisons, jails, juvenile detention facilities, lockup and community confinement. The Department of Homeland Security was responsible for writing the PREA Standards that apply to immigration detention facilities. Those standards were not finalized until February 2014 and can be found here:

What is Victim Advocacy?

A victim of sexual abuse can seek services from a rape crisis center. These community-based agencies offer advocacy services to support victims of sexual abuse. Victim advocacy is rooted in helping victims heal from sexual abuse, know what rights victims have, and being familiar with resources that can help victims.

Advocates are professionals who are not employees of a correctional facility who must meet certain training requirements and other criteria to work with sexual abuse victims.

Request access here to check out our PREA Conference training videos for more information

Find an advocate at a rape crisis center in your area here

Your Rights as a Victim of Sexual Abuse

  • The right to be treated with dignity and respect.
  • The right to report privately, safely, and in different ways.
  • The right to have an advocate or support person available for a forensic medical exam.
  • The right to get help from trained medical and mental health care professionals at no cost to you.
  • The right to have an advocate or support person available to support you through the investigation process.
  • The right to submit a victim impact statement or report to the court.


What can an Advocate Help You With?

An advocate can:

  • Listen to your story and support you.
  • Give you information to make choices and help you look at next steps.
  • Inform you of your rights as a victim.
  • Inform you of other resources and services that are available to you.


What Can an Advocate Not Help You With?

Examples of what an advocate CANNOT help you with include:

  • Provide legal advice
  • Make decisions for you
  • Tell you whether to report the sexual abuse or not
  • Investigate a crime
  • Demand the facility change their rules or your housing assignment
  • Contact your family or friends for you
  • Provide therapy or mental health treatment services


Keep in Mind

  • Advocates are here to help you. Their role is not to file a report for you, but they can give you information and can support you if you decide to file a report.
  • Advocates may require you to sign a consent form for follow-up services.
  • Facility staff may monitor, record, or overhear your conversations with advocate. You may check with the facility’s staff to find the most private way to speak with an advocate.
  • The facility should give you information about how they monitor communication with advocates.
  • Facility staff must report any known cases of sexual abuse.
  • A court could require an advocate or other person listening to testify about what you and the advocate tell each other.
  • If you plan to hurt yourself or someone else, the advocate may be required to report it.
  • By law, an advocate has to report the abuse of a minor.

Examples of what an advocate might help you with:

  • Talk with you over the phone or by mail, if you have been sexually abuse while confined.
  • Help you with ways to deal with past or present sexual abuse, or if you know someone who has been abused.
  • Discuss your safety and help you plan to stay safe while confined.
  • Explain your PREA reporting options.
  • Support you at a forensic medical exam at a community hospital
  • Talk with the facility about medical and mental health services you can use if you want.
  • Advocate that the facility work with you to get services for your ongoing medical and mental health needs related to the abuse.
  • Give you information about services the facility or others in the community can provide for follow-up.
  • Go over the facility’s PREA investigation process with you.
  • Give you support during the investigation.


What If You’re No Longer Incarcerated?

If you have been released from a facility and are looking for help, please see the resources listed here (link to resource page).


PREA Resources for Download:

PREA Standards
PREA Fact Sheet
OVW FAQs on STOP and PREA Certification
National Criminal Justice Association (NCJA) State PREA Penalties
PREA Compliance
PREA Data Collection Activities, 2018; June 2018, NCJ251672

PREA Resource Links:

New Mexico Department of Corrections
Just Detention International
PREA Resource Center

Contact Carla at NMCSAP for more information: Email or 505-883-8020 or 888-883-8020 toll-free

Content for this webpage was developed by the Washington and North Carolina Coalitions of Sexual Assault Programs. This content was edited and adapted by the New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs.

This project was supported by subgrant 2018-WF-424 and 2017-WF-322 awarded by the NMCVRC for the STOP Formula Grant Program. The opinions, findings, conclusions and recommendations expressed in the publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NMCVRC or the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

Additional PREA information and resources are currently being added. Please check back soon.