Adult Prisons and Jails with Immigration Supplement Lockups Juvenile Facilities Community Corrections

National Prison Rape Elimination Commission logo


For The Prevention, Detection, Response, and Monitoring of
Sexual Abuse in:




Sexual abuse of people in confinement violates their basic human rights, impedes the likelihood of their successful reentry into the community, and violates the Government’s obligation to provide safe and humane conditions of confinement. No period of detention, regardless of the charge or offense, should ever include rape. A core priority of any confinement facility must be safety, which means protecting the safety of all—the public, the staff, and the detainee population. In recognition of this, Congress formed the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission (NPREC or Commission) to develop national standards that will help eliminate prison rape and other forms of sexual abuse in confinement.

The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) of 2003 requires agencies to comply with the national standards proposed by the Commission and approved and promulgated by the Attorney General to eliminate sexual abuse in confinement. Fundamental to an agency’s success will be its commitment to zero tolerance of sexual abuse—a recognition that sexual abuse in confinement facilities is unacceptable under any circumstances and as dangerous a threat to institutional security as an escape or homicide. Agencies must demonstrate zero tolerance not merely by words and written policy, but through their actions, including what they do to prevent sexual abuse and their response when it occurs.

The standards developed by NPREC are organized as follows:

Standard Statement:

Assessment Checklist:
Not mandatory: tool for tracking compliance

Not mandatory: provides commentary and guidance

Each standard statement contains mandatory requirements. Under each standard statement is an assessment checklist. The assessment checklists are designed as a tool for agencies and lockups to self-assess and track their progress toward meeting the standards. They are also meant to be a starting point for the external audit of an agency’s compliance with the standards. The agency head, lockup head, PREA coordinator, or a designee must complete the assessment checklists for every standard. Although answering “yes” to each checklist item is not mandatory, meeting the requirements in the standard is mandatory. Therefore, when completing a given checklist, if an official answers “no” to a checklist question but believes the agency is meeting the requirements of the standard using a different process or procedure, he or she should explain how the alternative process or procedure meets the standard. The PREA coordinator or other official should attach documentation of compliance with the standard to the checklist unless compliance is self-evident.

After each assessment checklist is a discussion of the standard. Discussion sections provide explanation for the rationale of the standard and, in some cases, offer guidance for achieving compliance with it. Although the discussion sections sometimes offer further clarification on the meaning of terms or phrases used in the standard, the glossary should be used as the primary source for the meaning of terms or phrases. The discussion sections do not contain any additional mandatory requirements. When mandatory requirements are mentioned in a discussion section, they have been drawn directly from the standard statement.

In crafting these standards for lockups, the Commission drew heavily from the standards it developed for adult prison and jails but modified those standards, when necessary, to account for the differences between longer-term confinement settings and short-term lockups. The Commission recognizes that people spend a significantly shorter time in lockups than in prisons or jails and has, therefore, tailored these standards to be narrower in scope in such areas as training and medical and mental health care. Additionally, in developing the lockup standards, the Commission acknowledges that many law enforcement agencies already have a number of systems, policies, and protocols in place that are designed to and do prevent abuse in lockups. Agencies should be able to comply with the PREA standards by (1) modifying their existing systems, policies, and protocols to apply to sexual abuse in lockups specifically and (2) reviewing and strengthening those systems, policies, and protocols when necessary to ensure that the agency is doing everything in its power to prevent and respond to sexual abuse in lockups.

These standards are the product of lengthy study, consultation, and reflection. The Commission held eight public hearings, during which more than 100 witnesses testified, including corrections leaders, survivors of sexual abuse in confinement, researchers, investigators, prosecutors, and advocates for victims and the incarcerated. In addition, the Commission convened expert committees comprised of similarly diverse stakeholders with broad correctional expertise to help inform the content of the standards during the drafting process. Site visits to a cross-section of confinement facilities enabled the Commission to receive feedback on the draft standards from a variety of corrections officials. NPREC also conducted a thorough review of the literature and commissioned its own research to address some of the unanswered questions about the causes and consequences of sexual abuse in confinement. Finally, during its 60-day public comment period, the Commission received and considered comments on the standards, many extensive in nature, from more than 225 individuals or entities representing a wide range of perspectives.

The Commission believes that full adoption of these standards by all of the Nation’s lockups is necessary to achieve the elimination of sexual abuse in confinement facilities as Congress intended in passing PREA.