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Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA)

What is PREA?

The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) of 2003 is a federal law established to address the elimination and prevention of sexual assault and sexual harassment within correctional systems and detention facilities across the country. The Act applies to all correctional facilities, including prisons, jails, juvenile facilities and community corrections residential facilities. This includes the Nehemiah Project’s congregate care facility at 2506 W. Vliet St. in Milwaukee. 


PREA incidents involve these types of conduct:

  • resident-on-resident sexual assault

  • resident-on-resident abusive sexual contact

  • staff sexual misconduct

  • staff sexual harassment of a resident


Zero Tolerance Policy

Zero tolerance means that the Nehemiah Project board and staff will not tolerate sexual abuse of any kind within our environment.  Guidelines and procedures are in place to reduce client risk of sexual abuse and sexual harassment. Our role is to prevent, respond, report and investigate all incidents of staff sexual misconduct and resident on resident sexual abuse and harassment. A high priority is the area of prevention by our staff is in place in an effort to promote optimal safety for our residents and staff.

Our PREA Policy

The Nehemiah Project staff are committed to ensuring a safe environment for our residents. All residents can expect to have privacy while toileting, showering, and changing clothes. There may be an assigned roommate (same gender) present while changing, but staff of an opposite gender will never view a resident while toileting, showering, or changing. If a resident is not comfortable changing their clothes in the presence of a same gendered roommate, they may utilize the bathroom for absolute privacy while changing clothes. An important part of a safe and humane environment is freedom from sexual misconduct by staff and sexual abuse and harassment from other residents.

If a situation poses danger of harm to self or others, an employee has the duty to protect. The employee shall immediately call 911 or local law enforcement in emergency situations. A supervisor shall be called immediately after 911 and other emergency services are on their way.  The duty to protect can be carried out through a number of means that include, but are not limited to, the warning of a third party. Nehemiah line staff or management staff may feel it is in the best interest of the client and others to have the client detained if he or she is mentally ill, drug dependent or developmentally disabled and exhibits any of the following:

  • A substantial probability of physical harm to self or others as evidenced by recent threats or attempts at suicide or serious bodily harm;

  • A substantial probability of physical harm to other persons as evidenced by recent violent behavior on his part, or by evidence that others are placed in reasonable fear of violent behavior and serious physical harm to them that is evidenced by a recent overt act, attempt, or threat to do serious physical harm on his part.

  • A substantial probability of physical impairment or injury to himself due to impaired judgment, as manifested by evidence of recent act or omission.  If reasonable provisions for the individual’s protection are available in the community and there is a reasonable probability that the individual will take advantage of services or is in the services of a treatment facility, reporting may not be required.

Staff Sexual Misconduct is Prohibited

Staff sexual misconduct includes sexual acts or behaviors that occur, consensually or non-consensually, between a staff member, volunteer, contractor, or agency representative and a resident. Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Any sexual act by staff members

  • Any sexual advance by staff members

  • Requests for sexual favors by staff members

  • Threats by staff for refusing sexual advances

  • Verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature by staff members

  • Invasion of client privacy beyond that reasonably necessary for safety and security

  • Intentional touching of genitals, anus, groin, breast, or inner thigh area to gratify sexual desire

  • Indecent exposure by a staff member in front of a client

  • Kissing, touching, inappropriate comments about personal appearance


            Staff sexual misconduct also includes sexual harassment.  Examples include but are not
           limited to:

  • Demeaning references to a client’s gender

  • Derogatory comments about a client’s gender

  • Jokes about sex or gender specific traits

  • Abusive, threatening, profane or degrading sexual comments

  • Touching, attention, language or conduct of a sexual nature


Sexual acts or sexual contacts between any staff person and a client even if the client consents, initiates, or pursues – is prohibited and illegal.

The Nehemiah Project staff will have no sexual contact with any residents – even though the client might initiate, consent of pursue such contact ( see zero tolerance policy). The Nehemiah Project will conduct an investigation ( which may or may not include outside investigatory agencies) and will issue a final decision on the merits of any portion of a report alleging sexual abuse within 90 days of the initial filing of the report.  Computation of the 90 day time period does not include time consumed by residents preparing an appeal.  The agency may claim an extension of time to respond of up to 70 days, if the normal time period for responding is insufficient to make an appropriate decision.  At any level of the administrative process, if the resident does not receive a response within the time allotted, the resident may consider the absence of a response to be a denial at that level. During the investigatory phase, the staff member will have no contact with the resident and may, depending on the particular circumstances, be placed on suspension or no-contact employment until the investigation is complete.

Resident–on–Resident Sexual Abuse and Harassment is Prohibited

No resident has the right to pressure another resident to engage in sexual acts or unwanted sexual behavior, or to sexually harass another resident.  Examples of unwanted sexual behavior include:

  • One or more residents engaging in, or attempting to engage in, a sexual act with another resident using threats, intimidation, inappropriate touching, or other actions and/or communications by one or more residents aimed at coercing and/or pressuring another resident to engage in a sexual act.

  • If one or more resident have participated in prohibited behaviors, Nehemiah staff/management will confer with the placing entity and probation officer/case manager/social worker to determine sanctions for the residents up to and including removal from the facility.


Reporting Sexual Abuse, Sexual Harassment, or Staff Sexual Misconduct

A resident who is a victim of sexual abuse, assault, sexual misconduct, sexual harassment or staff sexual misconduct while in placement at the Nehemiah Project or a residents  who knows of an incident of sexual assault of a person in placement at the Nehemiah Project is requested to report it immediately. This policy is addressed with every resident during his intake at Nehemiah and is reinforced with informational posters addressing sexual abuse in the facility.

Reports can be made in any of the following ways:

  • Verbally

  • In writing

  • Anonymously

  • By a Third Party


All reported incidents will be referred to law enforcement, and all reported incidents will be investigated. This includes incidents that just happened, as well as incidents that happened months or years ago.

  •  All Nehemiah staff are mandated reporters and have had training in mandatory reporting of any sexual assault, harassment or misconduct. A resident may report violations to any Nehemiah staff member

  • A resident may tell a community probation/parole agent or other third party with whom they are comfortable

  • Contact the DOC direct probation officer to the Nehemiah Project, at 414-266-7345

  • Contact the Nehemiah Project Executive Director, Marye Beth Dugan at 414-704-1313 or

  • Report it directly to local law enforcement by calling 9-1-1


Procedures after reporting incidents of abuse

Nehemiah staff will investigate all allegations of sexual abuse, harassment, and staff or resident sexual misconduct. We may work with local police, medical and mental health resources or any other specially trained individuals or entities within the community to provide all needed services for the resident. The lead investigator will be determined by the specific nature of the abuse but will work in coordination with Nehemiah’s PREA coordinator to ensure communication is fluid and investigatory timelines are met.

During an investigation, a number of actions may occur if it is determined to be in the best interest of the client, the staff, the program/facility which may include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Separate the alleged victim and abuser. For a resident who is alleged to have abused another client, this may include transfer to another facility. For a staff person who is alleged to have abused a client, this may include the staff person being placed on restricted duty, relocated to a different work site or suspended.

  • Residents could be relocated for their safety.

  • Residents will not be disciplined or punished for reporting sexual misconduct. Every effort

will be made to ensure their protection.


The investigation must clearly support or refute any allegation with evidence, information gathered from witnesses, and documentation.

 Outcomes of an Investigation

After the investigation is finished, a decision will be reached and shared with the PREA coordinator, if completed by an outside authority as well as the  person reporting the  incident. The following resolutions will be considered:

  1. Substantiated allegation: the allegation was investigated and determined that there was sufficient evidence to make a final determination that the event did occur. Results of the investigation will be forwarded for prosecution, i.e. District Attorney’s Office, who will determine if charges will be filed.

  2. Unsubstantiated allegation: the allegation was investigated and the investigation produced insufficient evidence to make a final determination as to whether or not the event occurred.

  3. Unfounded allegation: the allegation was investigated and determined not to have occurred.  There is insufficient evidence to conclude the allegation is true.



Also consider:

If the investigation proves the resident made a false allegation, consequences for that will be determined by Nehemiah staff and the placing authority, i.e. DOC, County.

Although there was not enough evidence to prove that the allegation is true, there may be evidence to prove that another law, policy or rule was violated. Consequences for the particular violation will be determined jointly with Nehemiah staff, the placing authority, and/or other individuals impacted by the violation.

Any staff member who sexually abuses or assaults a resident will be disciplined up to and including discharge.  Under any circumstance discipline and criminal prosecution are more likely to be successful if the abuse is reported immediately.

Retaliation for Reporting Sexual Abuse, Harassment, or Misconduct is Prohibited

Retaliation or intimidation to prevent a client or third party from filing a complaint or participating in an investigation. The Nehemiah Project’s policy on retaliation for reporting any violation, but especially sexual misconduct, prohibits anyone from interfering with an investigation, including intimidation, threats or retaliation against witnesses. A resident who believes he is being unfairly treated in any way because of he filed complaint or because of assisting in the investigation of a complaint is asked to report this immediately to the Nehemiah Project PREA coordinator, investigator or other supervisory authority with whom the resident feels comfortable.

Help is Available

Staff will work with residents and their Probation and Parole agent to obtain community treatment, medical and mental health services in a timely manner.  Professionals providing support services in the community are also mandated reporters. If a sexual assault has occurred, the Nehemiah staff will see to it that the resident receives medical attention as soon as possible and should not shower, brush teeth or wash clothes or underclothing, or otherwise tamper with the scene of the incident. Nehemiah staff have also been trained not to contaminate, or let anyone else contaminate, the scene of the incident. This could wash away hair or bodily fluids, which are critical evidence. Also, the resident should save anything that touched the abuser (i.e. a condom, tissue, or towel) or anything that might have been left behind.


  • Sex between clients and staff is never okay.

  • If you are a victim, report it immediately.

  • If you know that a resident is a victim, report it immediately.

  • All reported incidents will be investigated.

  • False allegations can hurt the victim and the accused. 

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