Elimination of Sexual Abuse in Confinement Initiative - PREA

Elimination of Sexual Abuse in Confinement Initiative

State and local law enforcement leaders have a critical role in establishing a culture of zero tolerance for sexual assaults in confinement. Implementing policies and procedures to prevent, detect, and respond to sexual abuse in lockups and local jails can provide protection to both detainees and officers, may limit the agency’s exposure to liability, and can bolster the reputation of the agency in the community. This webpage will provide information about the responsibility of law enforcement leaders to eliminate sexual abuse in confinement and resources to help law enforcement leader’s work toward protecting detainees.

The IACP is able to work on this work through a contract with the PREA Resource Center (PRC) and funding from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). We have created a video that will enhance law enforcement leaders understanding of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) standards and their implications for lockups. This brief training video can be used to train criminal investigators before they are dispatched to investigate an allegation of sexual abuse in a confinement setting (adult prisons or jails, juvenile facilities, community confinement facilities, and/or lockups).  The video is below along with a resource guide for more information on PREA and available training and resource materials. 

Investigating Sexual Assault and Sex Related Crimes in Confinement Settings.pdf

In 2013, we conducted an online training on PREA Standards for Lockups and Implications for Local Lockups. This no-cost training is available below  and at the PREA Resource Center. The webinar covers what the basics of PREA are and how police agencies can begin to come into compliance with the federal law. 


Read the April 2012 IACP President's Message - What is PREA? And Why Does it Matter to Law Enforcement?      

Review IACP's informational brochure - Ensuring Safety and Reducing Liability in Police Lockups & Holding Cells: How New PREA Guidelines Affect Law Enforcement (PDF)



Please be on the lookout for our Investigating Sexual Assault and Sex Related Crimes in Confinement Settings Roll Call Video - COMING SPRING/SUMMER 2015! Available on this webpage at no cost. 


What is the Prison Rape Elimination Act?

In 2003 the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) was signed into law. PREA is intended to eliminate sexual assaults of all individuals in confinement. PREA applies to prisons, community correctional facilities, juvenile detention facilities, and it also encompasses local jails and lockups.

PREA defines “lockup” as a facility that contains holding cells, cell blocks, or other secure enclosures that are:

  1. Under the control of a law enforcement, court, or custodial officer; and
  2. Primarily used for the temporary confinement of individuals who have recently been arrested, detained, or are being transferred to or from a court, jail, prison, or other agency.

PREA encourages any size agency with any size holding facility (from one room that is used infrequently to hundreds of cells used on a daily basis), used to detain people for any length of time, to recognize the agency’s responsibility for ensuring the safety of detainees in their care. Additionally, if an agency contracts with another agency or a private entity for detainment services, the contracting agency is equally responsible for ensuring their contractor’s are in compliance.

What Does PREA Mean to Local Law Enforcement?

In support of PREA, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has released a final rule to prevent, detect, and respond to sexual abuse in confinement. This final rule establishes national standards for four categories of facilities: adult prisons and jails, community confinement facilities, juvenile facilities, and lockups.  The national standards take effect August 20, 2012; the first auditing cycle began August 20, 2013.

It is important for local law enforcement to understand the broader context of the PREA standards in order to have a complete perspective of their role and responsibilities. The standards are mandatory for the Federal Bureau of Prisons and all federal confinement facilities. State correctional facilities (and agencies that contract to detain state inmates) that choose not to voluntarily comply with the standards are subject to a five percent reduction in funds that they would otherwise receive for prison purposes from the DOJ, unless the governor certifies that five percent of such funds will be used to enable compliance in future years. 

Local law enforcement will not experience any federal penalties for not complying with the PREA standards, but there may be consequences for non-compliance. Even if an agency with a lockup or local jail is not mandated to comply with the new federal standards, it may want to do so voluntarily; otherwise, a plaintiff might argue that the agency was negligent in not adhering to a national standard.  An agency could be found liable if a court were to find that non-compliance with a national standard – even though voluntary – was evidence of negligence.

The release of the PREA standards provides an opportunity for law enforcement to take a strong leadership role on the issue of sexual abuse in confinement by establishing a culture of zero tolerance of sexual abuse in lockups and local jails.


The PREA standards are designed to detect, prevent, and respond to sexual abuse in confinement. The standards that apply specifically to lockups cover eleven categories:

  • prevention planning;
  • responsive planning;
  • training and education;
  • screening for risk of sexual victimization and abusiveness;
  • reporting;
  • official response following an detainee report;
  • investigations;
  • discipline;
  • medical and mental care;
  • data collection and review; and,
  • audits.

Review DOJ’s PREA Standards for Lockups

Generally, the standards focus on developing and implementing improved policies and procedures to establish and internalize a culture of zero tolerance of sexual abuse, rather than providing specific guidance on staffing ratios or monitoring technology.

Compliance with the PREA standards is not mandatory for local law enforcement; these standards do not present any new source of civil liability, but they do bring new focus to the existing duty of agencies to protect detainees. Agencies with lockups or local jails may want to strive to demonstrate an effort to comply on a meaningful level with these minimum standards of care to help limit the risk of civil liability. The IACP’s goal is to ensure all agencies are informed about the PREA standards so they can act accordingly.

To determine how IACP can best support agencies operating lockups in understanding and striving toward substantial compliance with the PREA standards, IACP conducted a PREA Needs Assessment Survey for Local Lockups. The results of this survey are available here and in the resource section of this page. 


The IACP recognizes that many state and local law enforcement executives may not realize that the scope of PREA extends to lockups, however, while it is not mandatory, law enforcement leaders will want to strive to be compliant with these minimum standards of care for detainees. In partnership with the National PREA Resource Center, which is operated by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) under a cooperative agreement with the Bureau of Justice Assistance,  the IACP is striving to provide information and resources to state and local law enforcement to help them better understand the PREA standards and how to reach voluntary compliance with those standards. Visit the National PREA Resource Center website for additional information on PREA, access to a variety of resources, and to request specific assistance.

The IACP/NCCD/ partnership will result in a nationwide effort to raise awareness about PREA and the PREA standards, a self-assessment toolkit, training, technical assistance, and the support and guidance that state and local law enforcement leaders may be seeking.

Resources and additional information on PREA:

Resources for establishing a culture of zero tolerance of sexual abuse in confinement:


Click here for more information.