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The Unintended Effects of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) in a Maximum-Security Prison for Women: Weaponization, Bullying, and Compulsory Heterosexuality

NCJ Number
Crime & Delinquency Volume: Online Dated: MAR 2024
Creaig A. Dunton; Hayden P. Smith; Frank Ferdik
Date Published
March 2024
22 pages

In this study, researchers examined unintended effects of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) in a women’s prison.


This article discusses unintended effects of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). Research on the PREA has overwhelmingly focused on male correctional institutions, neglecting female ones. Sexual violence is also of concern within female prisons, and the need arises to understand whether PREA is achieving the goal of eradicating sexual misconduct in prisons housing women, or if the policy is having unintended effects. Based on results from surveys collected from women (N = 369) incarcerated in a Southeastern U.S. prison, both positive and negative aspects of the act were cited. In terms of the former, the legislation resulted in improvements to prison climate, yet for negatives, participants noted how PREA was being weaponized by staff and peers against other incarcerated women via false allegations. Policy implications are discussed. (Published Abstract Provided)