Prison/Rape Elimination Act -PREA [2023]

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Course Author(s)

Essex Sheriff Department

Course Summary

On September 4, 2003 President Bush signed the first ever federal law to address the problem of rape and sexual abuse behind bars in the United States: Public Law No.: 108-79.

Co-sponsored by the late Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), this act was developed due to many individual and group concerns, including those of former inmates and civil rights groups.

Prior to sponsoring the bill, Congress found that there were 2,100,146 persons incarcerated in the United States at the end of 2001. Of the over 2 million inmates incarcerated at the end of 2001, experts estimated that at least 13% had been sexually assaulted in prison, with many suffering repeated assaults. Based on this estimate, nearly 200,000 inmates incarcerated now have been or will be the victims of prison rape. The total number of inmates who have been sexually assaulted in the past 20 years likely exceeds 1 million.

Aside from the criminality of prison rape, there are other important effects of rape on the prison population:

  • Higher levels of violence within facilities
  • Increased health/mental health care expenditures
  • Growing public health concerns regarding HIV, AIDS, tuberculosis, hepatitis B and C, both inside and outside prison
  • Increased mental health issues among victims
  • Growing legal liability (deliberate indifference)
  • Damage to the facility’s public image
  • Increased recidivism, civil strife, and violent crime by individuals who have been brutalized by prison rape

The purpose of PREA and this training include:

  1. A Zero Tolerance mandate
  2. Making prevention a top priority in each system
  3. Developing and implementing national standards (detection, prevention, reduction, and punishment)
  4. Increasing the available data and information on the incidence of prisoner sexual abuse
  5. Increasing the accountability of prison officials who fail to detect, prevent, reduce, and punish prison rape
  6. Protecting the Eighth Amendment rights of federal, state, and local prisoners
  7. Increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of federal expenditures through grant programs, such as those dealing with health care; mental health care; disease prevention; crime prevention, investigation and prosecution; prison construction, maintenance, and operation; race relations; poverty; unemployment; and homelessness
  8. Reducing the costs that prison rape imposes on interstate commerce
  9. Standardizing definitions of “prisoner sexual abuse” are needed for collecting data, including what constitutes:
    • Nonconsensual sexual acts
    • Abusive sexual contacts
    • Staff sexual misconduct
    • Staff sexual harassment
    • Increasing accountability of corrections officials
    • Protecting 8th Amendment rights of prisoners to be free from cruel and unusual punishment

Course Syllabus

  • Module 1 - P.R.E.A.

    • What is PREA?
    • Effects of Prison Rape
    • History of PREA
    • Sexual Assault in Prison
    • Module Assessment