The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA) is the first United States federal civil statute passed to address sexual violence against persons in custody in U.S. correctional facilities. The federal law was passed by unanimous consent by the U.S. Senate, and without objection by the U.S. House of Representatives in July 2003. President George W. Bush signed the Prison Rape Elimination Act into law on September 4, 2003.

The law was enacted 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.”

The passage of PREA 2003 established the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission (NPREC), which conducted hearings on sexual misconduct in secure facilities and subsequently issued a report to propose standards for the prevention, detection and reporting of sexual abuse in correctional facilities. PREA 2003 also required the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to issue compliance standards a facility must adopt to implement a zero tolerance policy.

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