Prison Rape

The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) of 2003 requires that federal, state and local correctional facilities maintain and enforce a zero-tolerance policy toward sexual assault for both inmate-on-inmate and staff-on-inmate misconduct.

Since 2003, the Bureau of Justice Statistics has been charged with completing a statistical review and analysis of the incidence and effects of prison rape for each calendar year. In 2011-2012, an estimated 4 percent of state and federal prison inmates and 3.2 percent of jail inmates reported experiencing one or more incidents of sexual victimization by another inmate or facility staff in the preceding 12 months or since admission to the facility. [1]

In fall 2009, at the request of the Attorney General, a PREA Working Group was convened to address the recommendations proposed by the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission. Staff from several Department of Justice (DOJ) components, including NIJ, worked together to review recommendations and draft a final rule.

On May 17, 2012, DOJ issued a final rule adopting national standards to prevent, detect and respond to prison rape, pursuant to PREA. The landmark rule sets national standards for four categories of facilities: adult prisons and jails, lockups, community confinement facilities, and juvenile facilities.  


[note 1]  Beck, Allen, Marcus Berzofsky, Rachel Caspar, and Christopher Krebs, Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails Reported by Inmates, 2011-12. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2013.

Date Reviewed: March 17, 2014