Department of Corrections  > Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) > Frequently Asked Questions - PREA


Frequently Asked Questions

PREA – What is PREA (Prison Rape Elimination Act)?


PREA stands for the Prison Rape Elimination Act, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush on Sept. 4, 2003.  The final regulatory standards to implement PREA went into effect on Aug. 20, 2012.


The department takes very seriously its PREA responsibilities in order to ensure public safety, secure correctional facilities and a safe environment for all offenders.



What is the purpose of PREA?


PREA is intended to address the detection, prevention, reduction and prosecution of sexual harassment and sexual assault in all correctional facilities in the country.



To what facilities does PREA apply?


PREA applies to all confinement facilities in the state. This includes all prisons, jails, police lock-ups, juvenile facilities, Immigration detention centers, court holding facilities, and community corrections facilities (home monitoring, probation, parole, half-way houses).



What constitutes staff sexual misconduct with offenders?


Staff sexual misconduct with offenders is generally defined as any behavior or act of a sexual nature by:

- a correctional employee (sworn or civilian, managers, administrators, supervisors, line officers, supervisors of offenders on work release)

- a contractor

- a food service employee

- a maintenance worker

- a volunteer

- a medical or mental health staff member (clinical staff and counselors)

- a member of the clergy

- vendors

- youth workers

- teachers


Are offenders the only potential victims of sexual misconduct under PREA?


No. Sexual misconduct can target not only a person under the care and custody of any Correctional authority, but also offender's family members and any other person who has official contact with the Department on behalf of offenders (lawyers, social workers, mental health professionals or victim advocates).



What are the possible dispositions of PREA reports?


There are three possible dispositions:  substantiated, unsubstantiated and unfounded.


Substantiated reports are those where an investigation determines that an incident did occur.


Unsubstantiated reports are those where evidence is insufficient to make a final determination that an incident occurred.


Unfounded reports are those where an investigation determines that an incident did not occur.



What is the Biggest challenge in Implementing PREA programs?


The "code of silence," which refers to the reluctance of some staff and inmates to talk openly about incidents of an illegal, unethical or questionable nature. Staff and inmates may refuse to cooperate in the investigation of critical events, in order to protect fellow staff members or other inmates.  Most staff members and inmates would rather risk discipline and continued violence than violate the code of silence within the correctional community and inmate population. This silence protects wrong doers. The department works to overcome the code of silence, and to ensure and safe environment of zero tolerance for sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual misconduct and related concerns, including retaliation and ignorance.



What should someone do if they suspect a sexual assault has occurred in a correctional facility?


Anyone who suspects or has knowledge of any sexual harassment, sexual assault or sexual misconduct in any juvenile or adult correctional facility should report it to a staff member, volunteer, supervisor, administrator, human resources official or the PREA Compliance Manager.  Inmates may file grievances, tell their counselor or unit manager, or talk with a correctional officer or any staff member with whom they feel comfortable and trust. Anyone who receives a report of sexual abuse in any confinement setting must send it up the chain of command for investigation and disposition.


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What is the penalty for not reporting a suspected sexual assault in a correctional facility?


Disciplinary action, including termination, may face a department employee or volunteer who fails to report an allegation of sexual misconduct, or coerces or threatens another person to submit inaccurate, incomplete, or untruthful information with the intent to alter a report.



What does the federal law require of each state?


Since the new regulations were published by the U.S. attorney general in August 2012, all states are required to take a number of actions to prevent, detect, reduce and respond to sexual abuse in confinement facilities. Among these are:

- establishment of a zero-tolerance standard for sexual harassment and sexual assault

- collection and reporting data on prison sexual violence

- training and education of correctional staff, contractors and volunteers about the nature of prison sexual violence, and how to prevent, detect and respond to incidents of sexual assault

- thorough and appropriate risk assessment and screening of offenders to keep apart potential aggressors and potential victims

- disciplining and prosecution of corrections staff who perpetrate sexual abuse against an inmate

- holding corrections administrators accountable for the occurrence of prison sexual violence in their facilities.


What is the Department of Corrections doing to implement PREA in Pennsylvania?


The department has implemented a zero-tolerance policy relating to sexual violence in custody, and recognizes offenders who are sexually harassed or abused as victims of a serious crime.  The department immediately responds to allegations, fully investigates all reported incidents, pursues disciplinary action, and refers those who perpetrate such conduct for investigation and prosecution.



What happens if Pennsylvania doesn't comply with PREA requirements?


Pennsylvania could face a five percent reduction in federal criminal justice funding for each year that the state is not in compliance.




General Information

1.      For the PREA Posters that were just received this week, what do they replace? 

These posters will replace the old sexual abuse posters that were at each of the phone banks.  They DO NOT replace the inmate abuse hotline posters. 

February 13, 2014

2.      Some facilities are appointing a “backup” PREA Compliance Manager (PCM) in case the need arises; they have someone to fall back on.  Are there guidelines for who this person should be?

If you go to PREA Standards and look at 115.11 (c) - it says that the facility shall designate a PCM with sufficient time and authority to coordinate the facility efforts to comply with PREA Standards.   So I would ask the question, if you were out in for an extended period, would this person have the time AND authority to ensure that the facility was in compliance??  If the answer is no, then you should probably think about someone else. 

In choosing someone, you may also want to think about the person that has an understanding of or an openness to understanding the issue of sexual abuse. 

February 13, 2014

3.      PREA requires that every staff member have a Criminal History Background Check done every 5 years. Are we also required to have the Child Abuse Clearance History Check done every 5 years as well?


There is no requirement in the PREA standards for prisons and jails that you have the Child Abuse check completed for your staff.

March 25, 2014


1.      For the Basic PREA Training for all staff, do they have to sign the Attachment 2-I or is a class roster sufficient?

No, the class roster isn't enough unfortunately.  The reason is that they have to not only sign that they were in class, but that they UNDERSTOOD everything that was taught to them.  So they must each sign the DCM-008, Attachment 2-I.

February 13, 2014

2.      For the Specialized Security Training to be held in March and April, who specifically should attend this?

For the Department of Corrections:  The first group of staff members that MUST attend this training is any Security Office personnel that will be conducting investigations.  After we have covered all of these personnel, then will be looking at shift commanders and commissioned officers.  If your staff attended the Specialized Security Training that was held in October, then DO NOT need to attend any of these trainings.

For County Facilities:  We are opening this one day training up for any staff member that will be conducting internal investigations, AS WELL AS, any local law enforcement officers that would be conducting the criminal investigations.** 

**PLEASE NOTE**  PREA Standards (115.34) require that any investigating agency, internal or external, have specialized security training to conduct these investigations.  The PA State Police are already being trained as part of an agreement with the Department and so if your agency is covered by PSP, you will meet this part of the standard. 

February 13, 2014

3.      As you had mentioned the Pa. State Police is currently having their investigative staff trained by the DOC, is that available to the local law enforcement (County Detectives) that we utilize for investigations? If so, who should they contact to set-up the training?


Yes.  This is available to local law enforcement, as well as any member of your staff that may do administrative investigations.  I would be happy to work with you to set up a regional training in your area to invite anyone that you may have, as well as those from surrounding counties for this.  If you would be willing to host this, please contact Jennifer Feicht at to inquire about setting up this training in your area.


March 25, 2014


4.      Should Psychology staff attend the Specialized Security Training in March and April? 

No, mental health and medical will have their own training and further information will be coming out regarding that training in the near future. 

February 13, 2014

Youthful Inmates

1.      When a youthful offender is in custody and has to visit with his/her attorney, is the security staff member required to be physically present in the room as they are for classroom instruction?


No.  This would violate the attorney/client privilege.

March 25, 2014


  1. When and inmate or family member of an inmate in the DOC or BCC call the Crime Stoppers Tipline, what happens to that call?

State inmates (from all SCI's and BCC facilities) will call the Crime Stoppers Tip Line.  This dials directly to a call center in TX, which will then filter this information back to PSP.  PSP will then filter that information to the appropriate facility for investigation.

The Crime Stoppers Tip Line will not provide any counseling services.

March 25, 2014

  1. When and inmate or family member of an inmate from a county facility who has an agreement with the Department to use the reporting line at SCI Camp Hill, call that sexual abuse reporting line, what happens to that call?

Counties will call a reporting line that rings into the Camp Hill Duty Office.  It is answered by a DOC staff member who will take the information, document that and send it to the appropriate county facility for investigation.

The reporting line at Camp Hill does not provide any counseling services. 

March 25, 2014


3.      What do we do when an inmate wants to use the abuse hotline while at work (kitchen, maintenance, etc.), no phones are readily available in those areas. Should they be sent back to the unit at the next movement time. We do understand that if the inmate reports something to staff that it would be handled immediately, but if they say, they just want to use the hotline while at work is really the question.  


Yes.  They have to be given the opportunity to access the reporting line when they request this.  So as soon as you are able to give them access to that reporting line, you should do so. 


March 25, 2014


4.      What about those inmates in POC placements, observation cells, etc when there are threats of self-harm. Is it wise to give an inmate a phone with a cord when they are suicidal? Or in some cases, not return the phone, destroy the phone or insert the phone (we have inmates here who constantly insert various items into their cavities).  


The standard here is that we have to make the reporting mechanism available to the inmate to make a report.  It is best to determine if they are actively suicidal to restrict their access to implements that may endanger their welfare until the point when they are able to use the phone without injuring themselves.   


March 25, 2014



1.      I know that an inmate can receive a misconduct if he/she is found to have made false allegations of sexual harassment or sexual abuse. Can an inmate also receive charges with the local magistrate’s office if the institution should so choose? And what would those charges be?  


Yes.  The inmate could receive charges from the PA State Police.  PSP would be responsible for deciding on whether or not to charge an inmate.  The charge would be "False Reports".


March 25, 2014