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Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA)

What is the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA)?

In September of 2003, the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) was signed into law.  PREA is a federal mandate of “Zero Tolerance” to sexual assaults on a national forum. PREA is the first national law to be passed addressing sexual assault behind bars.  The law was passed unanimously and quickly by both Houses of Congress and signed into law by President Bush. Some of the components of PREA include: establishing a zero-tolerance standard for the incidence of rape in prisons in the United States and make the prevention of prison rape a top priority in each prison system. Furthermore, it created a plan to develop and implement national standards for the detection, prevention, reduction, and punishment of prison rape, as well as, increase the availability of data and information about the incidence of prison rape.

Zero Tolerance Policy

In accordance with the standards set forth by PREA, the Sheriff’s Department has a zero tolerance policy for any act of assault, abuse, misconduct and harassment, of a sexual nature, perpetrated by another inmate or staff member, regardless of consent. Sexual conduct between inmates and staff, volunteers, or contract personnel, regardless of consensual status, is prohibited and subject to appropriate personnel action up to and including termination and potential criminal prosecution. There is no consent for sexual behavior in a custody environment.

Initial orientation and classification of inmates

The inmate orientation video is played at the Intake Release Center. Educational posters highlighting sexual assault awareness and how to report an assault are located in all of OC Sheriff jail facilities. These media publications inform inmates about sexual assault prevention and intervention techniques against sexual assault or misconduct.

Upon admission and prior to housing, all inmates will be interviewed and classified by Classification Deputies. This process will be accomplished through background checks and a confidential personal interview with each inmate. A factor considered in the classification process is the likelihood of becoming a victim of sexual assault. Classification and housing decisions are made with the intent to avoid and prevent sexual assaults.

Reporting Sexual Assaults

OC Sheriff Staff

Due to the serious nature of sexual assaults, any staff member knowledgeable of any inmate on inmate or staff on inmate sexual assault that occurs within an OC Sheriff facility must immediately report the allegation to the unit administration in accordance with agency policies.


Inmates being held in OC Sheriff custody are encouraged to immediately report allegations of sexual assault to correctional staff, mental health, medical staff, facility administrators or by calling the grievance hotline number posted in their housing area.

Friends and family of inmates

Allegations of sexual assault or abuse can also be reported by friends and family on behalf of an OC Sheriff inmate by contacting the facility Watch Commander where they are housed.

  • Theo Lacy Facility - 714-935-6200
  • James A Musick Facility - 949-855-2606
  • Central Jail Complex - 714-647-6161

PREA Coordinator

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department has a designated PREA Compliance and Training Coordinator responsible for coordinating and developing procedures to identify, monitor, and track staff and offender sexual abuse, misconduct and harassment. The PREA coordinator also ensures compliance with department policy, applicable state or federal laws, and PREA standards. Finally, the coordinator records, collects and reports statistical data to the Department of Justice on an annual basis as required by PREA standards.

Prevention, intervention and victim services

  1. Inmates who claim to be victims of sexual abuse, misconduct, or harassment, whether allegedly perpetrated by another inmate or staff, will be offered a medical examination, documentation, and treatment of injuries, as well as, a mental health evaluation and treatment.
  2. Housing, medical and mental health staff will monitor the physical and mental health of the victim and coordinate the continuation of necessary services.
  3. Medical staff will provide routine examinations, as well as, STD and HIV follow-ups as necessary.
  4. Inmates who are victims of sexual abuse, assault or harassment shall be re-evaluated by Classification Deputies to determine appropriate housing. Victims shall not return to general population until their classification has been reviewed.

Staff training

Sworn and professional staff members who work with inmates shall participate in sexual abuse and assault prevention and intervention training during their initial orientation and annual training updates.

How is a sexual assault incident handled?

All allegations of sexual assault/abuse are taken seriously.

  1. When reported to any staff member, security staff is immediately notified.
  2. Security staff will make necessary notifications using the chain of command on a need-to-know basis.
  3. Security staff will provide the victim immediate protection and removal from the area.
  4. Medical staff is notified.
  5. As trained first responders, security staff with treat the incident area as a crime scene and conduct an initial investigation.
  6. Orange County’s Health Care Agency will be contacted to provide both mental counseling and medical assistance ensuring victim confidentiality.   The OC Sheriff Special Victims Unit (SVU) will be contacted to conduct a more thorough investigation.

What to do if you are sexually assaulted

  • If the attack has just happened - Get to a safe place.
  • If in custody, REPORT THE ATTACK TO A STAFF MEMBER or LAW ENFORCEMENT IMMEDIATELY. The longer you wait to report the attack the more difficult it is to obtain the evidence necessary for a criminal and/or administrative investigation.
  • Seek immediate medical attention. You may have serious injuries that you are not aware of, and any sexual contact can expose you to sexually transmitted diseases.
  • If sexual abuse or assault of any inmate in jail custody occurs, the medical, psychological, safety and legal needs of the victim shall be promptly and effectively addressed.
  • As appropriate to the event, the person victimized by an act of sexual abuse, assault or any mistreatment while being detained in the facility shall be referred, under appropriate security provisions, to Orange County Health Care for treatment.   
  • Treatment can include medical and mental health evaluations and treatment, crisis intervention counseling, and recommendations for post-release follow-up treatment.
  • The victimized person may also be offered assistance from the Community Services Program advocate of the Special Victim’s Detail.
  • Do not shower, brush your teeth, use the restroom, or change your clothes. You may destroy important evidence.
Later on
  • Seek the support of a trusted friend, family member, or local rape crisis center.
  • The days ahead can be traumatic and it helps to have people who care about you close for support.
  • Seek professional help.
  • Support services in the community are available for crisis care to listen and offer support.

Facts about sexual abuse

Anyone, male or female, can be the victim or perpetrator of sexual violence. A rapist may be either heterosexual or homosexual.

A survivor is not at fault for the rape/sexual assault, even if he/she was in a secluded area or had previous consensual sex with the attacker.

The fact that a victim of sexual abuse became sexually aroused, or that a male victim ejaculated, does not mean he/she was not raped or that he/she gave consent. These are normal, involuntary physiological reactions.

 It is common for survivors of sexual abuse to have feelings of embarrassment, anger, guilt, panic, or depression. Other common reactions include loss of appetite, nausea or stomachaches, headaches, loss of memory and/or trouble concentrating and changes in sleep patterns.

The dynamics of sexual abuse can cause physical, mental, social & behavioral effects, chronic conditions and issues with reproductive health. Physical effects may include injuries, functional impairments, poor health, obesity, etc. Mental effects include PTSD, anxiety, low self-esteem, sexual dysfunction, etc. Social and behavioral effects such as smoking, alcohol/ drug abuse, high risk sexual behavior, physical inactivity, stigmatization by the community or family.

PREA Statistics

Annual statistics may be downloaded below.