This article describes the U.S. Justice Department's National Institute of Justice's (NIJ's) responsive actions under the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), which requires several Federal agencies to determine the prevalence of prison rape by collecting data; funding programs to assist Federal, State, and local corrections agencies; and conducting relevant research.
NIJ decided to fill significant gaps in the knowledge about sexual violence by funding research that would explain the complexities of prison rape beyond the incidence and prevalence data that the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) was required to collect. NIJ created a comprehensive research agenda based on the major issues raised by PREA that were not being addressed by other Federal agencies. This research agenda spanned the years 2003 to 2008 and included a number of research solicitations. NIJ-funded PREA research has included 10 projects. Four have produced final reports to date, and six are ongoing. The four final reports are available at the National Criminal Justice Reference Service. The first NIJ-funded research under the PREA was designed to determine inmates' perceptions regarding sexual violence in prisons. Participants largely perceived safety to be the personal responsibility of inmates; male and female inmates reported some concern or risk for rape, but generally did not fear imminent rape. A second study examined nearly 2,000 official allegations of prison sexual assault in the Texas prison system from 2002 to 2005. A third research project provided a national profile of approaches and highlights of innovative strategies for addressing sexual violence in prisons. The fourth study, which was released in 2008, involved a multistage, multimethod approach in determining inmate and staff perceptions of sexual violence within the context of violent behavior in women's facilities. This article summarizes the findings from each of these four final reports. 8 notes