Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA)

“No matter what crime someone may have committed, rape is not part of the penalty.”
Just Detention International

The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) was passed in 2003 with unanimous support from both parties in Congress. The purpose of the act was to “provide for the analysis of the incidence and effects of prison rape in Federal, State, and local institutions and to provide information, resources, recommendations and funding to protect individuals from prison rape.” (Prison Rape Elimination Act, 2003).

The act also created the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission and charged it with developing draft standards for the elimination of prison rape. Those standards were published in June 2009, and were turned over to the Department of Justice for review and passage as a final rule. That final rule became effective August 20, 2012. (PREA Resource Center) The final rule requires detention facilities to offer services from third party, community based organizations to survivors.

Why was PREA established?

PREA was written and created from a need to offer incarcerated people the same services as people who aren’t incarcerated. Sexual assault and rape in prison facilities nationwide are at epidemic levels. The goal is simple: end prison rape and sexual assault with zero tolerance for perpetrators and enhance services to survivors. Finding ways to increase access to crisis service providers, ensuring that there is an effective response system in place, and establishing best practices for those responses are the nuts and bolts of PREA.

Being incarcerated adds a number of barriers to receiving services. For example, not having access to phones, to email, to the internet, to letter writing materials, and so on means that channels available to people on the outside need special tailoring to be able to be delivered to people in state facilities. At the same time, there is a higher concentration of identities that are targeted for sexual assault in prison and jail, so there is an increased need to provide services with very reduced avenues to deliver them through.

What does PREA look like in New York?

NYSCASA has a broad reach as a statewide coalition, and one of the areas that NYSCASA has taken a step forward in is implementing PREA standards.

In New York, several Rape Crisis Centers have signed on to deliver services to incarcerated New Yorkers who have experienced sexual assault. Each Rape Crisis Center has multiple facilities that they take calls from and perform a variety of follow up services. NYSCASA enters the picture here by reimbursing the crisis centers for their PREA services, helping train and educate staff on what PREA is, and offering technical assistance to ensure advocates can deliver their expertise.

NYSCASA is also entering into the national PREA conversation through our collaborative work with the PREA Resource Center, Just Detention International, and the Resource Sharing Project. Collaborating with other state coalitions and strategizing with experts from across the nation fits in perfectly with the spirit of NYSCASA’s involvement. Sharing experience, making connections, increasing communication, and furthering our understandings of policies and people’s lived realities are all part of what makes the PREA projects come to life. Having a national communication network also gives NY great examples on which to base our own creations by seeing what has and hasn’t worked elsewhere.

Another vital aspect of PREA work is bringing light to the nuanced taboos that are prevalent to the project. Delivering services to incarcerated people brings up some widely held presumptions about who does or does not deserve care. It is our stance that sexual assault is never acceptable for anyone, regardless of the reasoning or history of those involved.

PREA also specifically identifies and addresses several marginalized populations by having space and discussion in trainings about LGBQ people, trans people, people of color, people with disabilities, women, and minors. Each of these identities is at an increased risk for sexual assault in general, which becomes even more potent in prisons and jails. Ensuring that everyone is safe while they are incarcerated includes taking special measures for populations that have historically been discriminated against.

Where does PREA apply?

PREA applies to a wide range of detention facilities, including: county jails, state prison facilities, juvenile detention facilities, community correction facilities, federal prisons, immigration detention centers, and police lockups.

County jails

Approximately 27,000 people are incarcerated in county jails in New York State (Prison Policy Initiative). According to PREA Standard 115.5, “jail” refers to “a confinement facility of a Federal, State, or local law enforcement agency whose primary use is to hold persons pending adjudication of criminal charges, persons committed to confinement after adjudication of criminal charges for sentences of one year or less, or persons adjudicated guilty who are awaiting transfer to a correctional facility.”

State prison facilities

Approximately 50,000 people are incarcerated in state prisons in New York State (Prison Policy Initiative). According to PREA Standard 115.5, “prison” means “an institution under Federal or State jurisdiction whose primary use is for the confinement of individuals convicted of a serious crime, usually in excess of one year in length, or a felony.” There are 54 state-run prisons across New York State, which are administered by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

Juvenile detention facilities

Approximately 1,400 youth are incarcerated in juvenile detention facilities in New York State (Prison Policy Initiative). According to PREA Standard 115.5, “juvenile detention facility” refers to “a facility primarily used for the confinement of juveniles pursuant to the juvenile justice system or criminal justice system.”

Community correction facilities

According to PREA Standard 115.5, “community confinement facility” refers to “a community treatment center, halfway house, restitution center, mental health facility, alcohol or drug rehabilitation center, or other community correctional facility (including residential re-entry centers), other than a juvenile facility, in which individuals reside as part of a term of imprisonment or as a condition of pre-trial release or post-release supervision, while participating in gainful employment, employment search efforts, community service, vocational training, treatment, educational programs, or similar facility-approved programs during nonresidential hours.” This includes the 1,100 individuals in involuntary commitment in New York State (Prison Policy Initiative).

Federal prisons

Approximately 11,000 people are incarcerated in federal prisons in New York State (Prison Policy Initiative).

There are 5 federal prisons in New York State, which are administered by the Federal Bureau of Prisons:

According to PREA Standard 115.5, “prison” means “an institution under Federal or State jurisdiction whose primary use is for the confinement of individuals convicted of a serious crime, usually in excess of one year in length, or a felony.”

ICE detention facilities

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operates 76 detention centers in New York State. (This number does not include county jails, state prisons, federal prisons, and other locations with which ICE contracts.)

Police lockups

According to PREA Standard 115.5, “lockup” refers to “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.”

How can incarcerated survivors receive support?

PREA Centers

Several Rape Crisis Programs serve 40 NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) facilities, with the remaining 14 DOCCS facilities served primarily by local victim assistance programs and the PREA Centers on an as-needed basis. The PREA Centers provide free, confidential services including: 24/7 emergency hotline; crisis intervention and ongoing support; individual counseling; advocacy and accompaniment through medical, law enforcement, and court systems; information and referrals; and community awareness, outreach, and prevention activities.

The PREA Centers and their mailing addresses are:

For more information about PREA in New York State, contact NYSCASA’s PREA team at

PREA Statewide Rape Crisis Hotline

Through a partnership between the State Office of Victim Services, State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and Crisis Services, Inc., and the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS), survivors who are incarcerated at all DOCCS facilities in New York State can use the confidential PREA Statewide Rape Crisis Hotline.

Incarcerated survivors can dial 777 on any phone in DOCCS facilities to use the hotline and get connected to a rape crisis counselor/advocate for crisis counseling, medical advocacy, legal advocacy, and additional support. Hotline operators are able to take sexual abuse and harassment reports which they then forward to OSI or the facility when requested by the survivor.

This direct-dial number is available every day, in English, Spanish and other languages, at all facilities operated by the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS).

Additional PREA resources


Questions? Contact NYSCASA’s PREA team:

 Get Help

If you have been sexually assaulted, call the New York State Hotline for Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence.


 Find Crisis Centers

Search our program directory to find a rape crisis center in your area.


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