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Frequently Asked Questions

Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA)
28 C.F.R., Part 115
What is PREA?
PREA was signed into law on September 4, 2003.  The final regulatory standards to implement PREA went into effect on Aug. 20, 2012. 
PREA standards are designed to prevent, detect, respond and eliminate incidences of sexual abuse and sexual harassment.  Every agency facility must undergo a PREA audit by a Department of Justice Certified Auditor once every three-year audit cycle to demonstrate full compliance with the PREA standards.
The department adheres to a zero tolerance standard regarding sexual abuse.  Anyone who engages in fails to report, or knowingly condones sexual abuse or sexual harassment of an inmate shall be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination, and may be subject to criminal prosecution.
PREA applies to what types of facilities?
PREA applies to confinement facilities including
·         federal and state prisons,
·         local jails,
·         community corrections,
·         lock-ups,
·         juvenile detention centers, and
·         immigration detention facilities.
What constitutes staff sexual misconduct with inmates?
Staff sexual misconduct with an inmate is generally defined as any behavior or act of a sexual nature by a staff member, contractor or volunteer that includes sexual contact or attempts, threats, requests for sexual contact, exhibitionism and/or voyeurism.  This can also include sexually harassing behavior to include verbal comments or gestures that are sexually suggestive or demeaning references to gender, sexuality and body.
What are the possible investigative outcomes of a PREA investigation?
Investigative outcomes can result in findings that are substantiated, unsubstantiated or unfounded.
Substantiated Allegationmeans an allegation that was investigated and determined to have occurred.  The agency shall impose no standard higher than a preponderance of the evidence in determining whether allegations of sexual abuse or sexual harassment are substantiated. (§115.72)
Unsubstantiated Allegation – means an allegation that was investigated and the investigation produced insufficient evidence to make a final determination as to whether or not the event occurred.
Unfounded Allegationmeans an allegation that was investigated and determined not to have occurred. 
*In accordance with the PREA standards, inmates are to be notified of the investigative outcome following a sexual abuse investigation in which they were the alleged complainant.
What should staff do when sexual abuse or sexual harassment is suspected?
Staff and agency reporting duties require all staff to report immediately and according to agency policy any knowledge, suspicion, or information regarding an incident of sexual abuse or sexual harassment that occurred in a facility, whether or not it is part of the agency; retaliation against inmates or staff who reported such an incident; and any staff neglect or violation of responsibilities that may have contributed to an incident or retaliation.
The report may be made verbally, in writing or anonymously by an inmate, friend or family member (on behalf of an inmate) or staff member to the third-party reporting address which was established in cooperation with the Pennsylvania State Police.  The address is BCI/PREA Coordinator at 1800 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg, PA 17110. 
What is the penalty for engaging in or not reporting sexual abuse and sexual harassment?
Staff may face disciplinary action up to and including termination for violating sexual abuse or sexual harassment policies.  Termination shall be the presumptive disciplinary sanction for staff who have engaged in sexual abuse.  
What does the federal law require of each state?
In order to assure PREA Compliance, all facilities under the Governor’s operational control are required to take action to prevent, detect, reduce and respond to sexual abuse. Among these actions are
·         establishment of a zero-tolerance standard for sexual abuse and sexual harassment;
·         collection and reporting data of prison sexual violence;
·         training staff, contractors or volunteers about the nature of prison sexual violence, and how to prevent, detect and respond to incidents of sexual abuse;
·         thorough and appropriate risk assessments and screening of inmates/re-entrants;
·         ensuring that victims of sexual abuse have access to medical care, mental health treatment and outside victim advocacy services;
·         disciplining and prosecution of staff who perpetrate sexual abuse; and
·         holding administrators accountable for occurrences of prison sexual abuse.
What if Pennsylvania does not comply with PREA requirements?
Pennsylvania is committed to assuring the sexual safety of all individuals in its custody and creating an environment that is conducive to rehabilitation.  In addition to a five percent reduction in federal criminal justice funding for each year that the Commonwealth is not in compliance, more importantly, the Commonwealth experiences associated indirect costs, such as increased recidivism, consumption of community resources and health effects that it is working diligently to prevent.
Where can I go for more information?
·         The National PREA Resource Center:
·         Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape:
·         National Sexual Violence Resource Center:
·         Just Detention:   
This page was last updated March 9, 2017