Congress affirmed the duty to protect incarcerated individuals from sexual abuse by enacting the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA), taking the first national step toward a new understanding of the problem of sexual abuse in correctional and detention facilities. The House and Senate voted unanimously to pass the Act. As part of that work, Congress created the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission to study the causes and consequences of sexual abuse in confinement and to develop standards for eliminating abuse.
Upon its creation, the Commission undertook a comprehensive legal and factual study of the impact of prison sexual assaults on federal, state and local government functions and on the communities and social institutions in which they operate. The Commission presented its final Report and proposed Standards on June 23, 2009 to the President, Congress, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and other federal and state officials. Within a year of receiving the report and proposed standards from the Commission, the Attorney General is required by PREA to promulgate national standards for the detection, prevention, reduction, and punishment of detention facility sexual abuse. Pursuant to PREA, NPREC sunset August 22, 2009.