In September 2003, the United States Congress unanimously passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) to create “zero tolerance” for sexual abuse in custodial settings by using a variety of tools to improve correctional practices to prevent, detect and respond to sexual abuse. The final rulings were promulgated by the Department of Justice in May 2012 and published in the Federal Register in June 2012.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) recently released the 2011-2012 findings from the surveys of jail and prison inmates about incidences of sexual victimization. Based on this information, four percent of state and federal prison inmates and 3.2 percent of jail inmates within the United States reported experiencing one or more incidents of sexual victimization by another inmate or facility staff in the past 12 months or since admission to the facility.

In juvenile facilities, the numbers are even more troubling. BJS found in the 2012 report of sexual victimization reported by youth, 1,720 adjudicated youth nationwide in state juvenile facilities and state contract facilities (9.5 percent) reported having suffered sexual abuse in the past 12 months—2.5 percent (an estimated 450 nationwide) reported an incident involving another youth, and 7.7 percent (1,390) reported an incident involving facility staff, with 13 high-risk facilities having rates at least 35 percent higher than the national average.

That being said, there is help available for agencies to assist with compliance with the PREA Standards. The Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, recently released a request for proposals (RFP) to provide funding to eligible applicants for demonstration of projects within confinement settings, including adult prisons and jails; juvenile facilities; community corrections facilities; law enforcement lockups and other temporary holding facilities; and tribal detention facilities. The RFP is looking for applicant agencies to successfully communicate a comprehensive approach to the prevention, detection, and response to the incidence of sexual abuse and clearly prioritize unaddressed gaps, either programmatically or through changes in policy and procedures, as they relate to implementation of the PREA Standards.

One of the major benefits of applying for a PREA Demonstration Grant is priority consideration will be given to applications that propose to address facilities demonstrating high (above the national average) incidence of sexual abuse based on data reported annually to BJS, or other available data that suggest past problems with sexual abuse within the facility. Under this grant program, agencies can propose to include:

  • Increase awareness of the problem of sexual assault in adult prisons and jails; juvenile facilities; community corrections facilities; law enforcement lockups and other temporary holding facilities; and tribal detention facilities. Identify causes and contributing factors leading to sexual victimization supported by data.
  • Track performance indicators to ensure the effective application of policy and implementation of program strategies which achieve compliance with the PREA standards and create a “zero tolerance” within confinement environments.
  • Provide resources to develop comprehensive programs, strategies, and policies that will enhance state, local, or tribal government’s abilities to achieve compliance with the PREA Standards and eliminate sexual abuse.

As an example, past PREA Demonstration Grants were awarded to:

  • Review and revise current policies, procedures, contracts, and written materials provided to staff and detainees/inmates to ensure compliance with PREA Standards and best practices
  • Review current staffing levels and patterns with regard to the make-up of the inmate/detainee population and the physical layout of the facility
  • Conduct sexual abuse vulnerability assessments
  • Develop or modify offender management systems or other databases that will track aggressors and victims
  • Integrate different data systems used by internal departments
  • Develop and institute offender education programming
  • Develop first response strategy protocols that detail how to work with victims to address their needs while at the same time managing the investigation
  • Leverage community-based resources and develop relationships with Rape Crisis Centers and the creation of Sexual Assault Response Teams (SART)
  • Contract with outside community-based organizations or service providers for counseling activities and assistance to facilities with addressing sexual victimization issues
  • Provide support to victim advocates who are either specially trained staff or are from community-based sexual assault service providers
  • Establish facility hotlines to report sexual victimization incidents
  • Examine extent that the organizational culture, including leadership and staff/inmate communications are responsible for high incidence of sexual abuse
  • Develop sustainability protocols to maintain staff after federal funding may no longer be available

While many agencies are concerned about the cost match requirement to this grant, and have considered not applying because of it, the potential benefits far outweigh the match requirement under this RFP. While federal funds awarded under this program may only cover 50 percent of the total costs of the project being funded, the Attorney General may waive the match requirement upon a determination of fiscal hardship.

The process to apply:

  • Review the BJA grant announcement, paying special attention to criteria and the application checklist.
  • All applications must be received by 11:59 p.m. on July 5. Agencies can apply online at


The Project on Addressing Prison Rape,
The Bureau of Justice Statistics,
The National Institute of Corrections,
The National PREA Resource Center,