Prison Rape Elimination Act

Enacted in 2003, the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) is designed to prevent and respond to sexual assault in correctional facilities.  The guiding principle of PREA is that “rape is not part of the punishment” that should be imposed on people who are incarcerated.  An important aspect of correctional facilities’ compliance with PREA is providing victim-inmates with services and support from rape crisis centers.  To prepare advocates to work with these incarcerated victims, MCASA has reviewed, compiled, and created several resources, including a PREA Advocate Packet with links to helpful documents, links to PREA Training including webinars and written materials, and a PREA MOU Roadmap.  MCASA also provides resources for those rape crisis centers just getting started with PREA implementation, links for advocates wanting additional information on victim-inmate advocacy or at-risk populations, and legal documents including the full text of the PREA statute and regulations.

Key PREA Standards for Victim Advocates

The following are the primary PREA standards relevant to victim advocates listed by standard number and title. A summary of the standard provision is listed followed by a link to the full text of the standard.

115.21 Evidence protocol and forensic medical examinations

115.51 Inmate reporting

  • Inmates must have multiple internal ways to report sexual abuse or sexual harassment and at least one option to report externally to a public or private entity or office not affiliated to the correctional agency. [Full Standard Text 115.51]

115.53 Inmate access to outside confidential support services

  • Agencies must enter into MOUs with outside victim advocates; provide inmates with phone and mail access to rape crisis and/or other victim advocates. [Full Standard Text 115.53]

115.82 Access to emergency medical and mental health services

115.83 Ongoing medical and mental health care for sexual abuse victims and abusers

  • Agencies must provide victimized inmates follow-up services, treatment plans, and referrals for continued care. [Full Standard Text 115.83]

 Advocate Packet

MCASA suggests advocates print out the following six documents to familiarize themselves with PREA, the prison environment, and special considerations for working with incarcerated victims. MCASA acknowledges and appreciates use materials from PCAR, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.

Working with Victims Who Are Inmates

  • This slightly modified PCAR document offers practical information to advocates who will work with victim-inmates, including logistical factors to keep in mind when counseling within the correctional facility, an overview of the prison environment, and inmate behavior of which to be aware.

Understanding Rape in Prison

  • This slightly modified PCAR resource provides a more substantial overview of prison culture, sexuality within correctional facilities, how sexually abusive relationships develop, an explanation of prison slang related to rape, inmates’ reactions to sexual abuse, reasons for not reporting rape, and an in-depth look at women in prison.

In the Shadows

  • This Just Detention International (JDI) document describes how some inmates are at a higher risk of being victims of sexual abuse – including juveniles; members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community; immigrants; and first-time, non-violent offenders – and how issues in prison exacerbate this risk.

Commonly Used Terms in Prison

  • Based on a Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) resource, this document provides a list of terms frequently used in Maryland correctional facilities.

Maryland Division of Correction Inmate Handbook 2007

  • The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correction Services (DPSCS) Inmate Handbook provides an account of what happens to an individual when they are incarcerated, to how inmates are classified during in-processing to services they receive while in prison to parole procedures, as well as correctional facility responsibilities.


MCASA recommends RCCs utilize the following webinars and power point presentations for a better understanding of PREA, the barriers in advocating for victim-inmates, and suggestions for effectively working with prisoners.

Hope Behind Bars – Providing Services to Incarcerated Survivors

  • This JDI webinar offers advice on methods for providing victim-inmates with services such as hospital accompaniment, hotline intervention, in-person counseling, and written communications, as well as first-hand perspectives from advocates.
  • Slides

On the Inside – Logistics for Providing Services Behind Bars

  • This JDI webinar features a first-hand account from a victim-inmate, including the advocates approaches he found most helpful in healing, as well as logistical information for assisting incarcerated survivors.
  • Slides

Victim Advocate Standards – NPRC & OVW

  • This document from the National PREA Resource Center (NPRC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Violence against Women (OVW) highlights the 2012 PREA regulations relevant to RCC advocates and provides links to webinars.

Additional webinars can be found here.

 MOU Roadmap for Member Rape Crisis Centers

The 2012 PREA regulations require correctional facilities to attempt to provide victim-inmates with a sexual assault advocate.  While advocates are not obligated to comply with PREA, correctional facilities will likely work with RCCs to meet this demand.  MCASA has developed a model memorandum of understanding (MOU) including sample MOU language and advice about issues for Rape Crisis Centers to consider.  MCASA is available to help member agencies develop these agreements.

MCASA Member Rape Crisis Centers can email or call 301-328-7023 for a copy of the MOU Roadmap and to request further help.

 Additional Resources for Getting Started

If PREA implementation is new to your RCC, the following resources may assist advocates in strategizing methods for establishing a relationship with correctional facilities.

MCASA Fact Sheets

PREA – A Pennsylvania Perspective

  • This PCAR document provides an overview of initial concerns Pennsylvania RCCs and correctional facilities had in working with one another, such as confidentiality, and suggestions for effectively implementing PREA.

Building Partnerships between RCCs and Correctional Facilities

  • This report from a forum sponsored by DOJ, OVW and DOJ, Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) details key issues in PREA coordination, including the differing cultures and goal of RCCs and correctional facilities, tips for overcoming these differences, and funding, resources, and training.

Partnerships between Correctional Agencies and Community-Based Service Providers

  • This National PREA Resource Center webpage provides an implementation plan for RCCs and correctional facilities, including stages for hotline services, sexual assault forensic exams, and in-person counseling.

Additional Information

For more detailed information on PREA, advocating for victim-inmates, and at-risk populations, please see the documents below.

Hope Behind Bars

  • This JDI advocate guide offers a more in-depth look at PREA, the need for advocates in correctional facilities, and barriers to overcome in assisting victims of sexual abuse in prison.

Protecting LGBT Prisoners

  • This ACLU resource provides additional information for assisting LGBT inmates, including defining terms, explaining special requirements for transgendered individuals, and suggested procedures advocates may follow if a correctional facility is not compliant with PREA.


Below are links to the full text of the 2003 PREA statute, the 2012 DOJ PREA regulations, and a toolkit for prisons that goes further in-depth regarding implementation of the PREA statute and regulations.

Prison Rape Elimination Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 15601-15609

  • This links to the full text of the PREA statute.

DOJ PREA Final Rule

  • This links to the full text of the PREA regulation.

DOJ PREA Prisons and Jails Standards

  • This links to a shorter report of the DOJ National Standards to Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Prison Rape.

Implementing PREA – A Toolkit for Jails

  • This National Institute of Corrections document details questions correctional facilities should ask themselves to ensure they are complying with the PREA statute and regulations.