Auditor certification process

PREA Standard 115.402(a) and (b) establish minimum qualifications for PREA auditors, and direct DOJ to establish a process for auditor certification. All auditors must be certified by DOJ. Becoming a DOJ-certified PREA auditor is an intensive process that includes a 40-hour PREA auditor candidate training and corresponding exams; participation in a field training practicum; and successful completion of probationary certification requirements. Auditor trainees must also pass a criminal background records check. Certified auditors are required to adhere to the auditor code of conduct in section III of the PREA Auditor Handbook.

Auditor certification process


Auditor qualifications

Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) standard §115.402 specifies that audits shall be conducted by “(1) a member of a correctional monitoring body that is not part of, or under the authority of, the agency (but may be part of, or authorized by, the relevant State or local government); (2) a member of an auditing entity such as an inspector general’s or ombudsperson’s office that is external to the agency; or (3) other outside individuals with relevant experience.”

Standards 115.401(c) and (d) require that an auditor cannot have “received financial compensation from the agency being audited (except for compensation received for conducting prior PREA audits) within three years prior to the agency’s retention of the auditor,” and the agency cannot “employ, contract with, or otherwise financially compensate the auditor for three years subsequent to the agency’s retention of the auditor, with the exception of contracting for subsequent PREA audits.”

The Department of Justice seeks professionals who are committed to eliminating sexual abuse in confinement and who understand correctional operations; have strong analytical skills; can apply complex federal regulations to varying sets of facts; have the capacity to effectively interview correctional and administrative staff, persons in confinement, advocates, and others; and the skill to produce quality written work to document and convey audit findings to agencies and facilities. 

To identify individuals who may have these core skills, the Department of Justice has established these threshold qualification requirements to be considered for PREA auditor certification:

Minimum experience:

  • Three years of significant, recent auditing, compliance monitoring, quality assurance, investigations, or substantially similar experience with the facility type or the set of Standards in which the applicant seeks certification(s); OR
  • Three years of significant experience working to implement PREA as a PREA Coordinator or PREA Compliance Manager with the facility type or set of Standards in which the applicant seeks certification(s); OR
  • Three years of other significant professional experience related to safety in confinement facilities accompanied by a demonstrated expertise regarding facility operations with the facility type or set of Standards in which the applicant seeks certification(s).

Based on an applicant’s experience and work history, they may train and be certified to conduct audits of adult facilities (including prisons, jails, community confinement facilities, and lockups), juvenile facilities, or both types of facilities. Auditors are only authorized to conduct audits for the facility type for which they are certified. 

When seeking dual certification to audit both adult and juvenile facilities, an applicant must demonstrate at least three years of relevant experience in juvenile settings or with juvenile populations, and at least one year of relevant experience in adult settings. Please be aware that experience in an adult prison, jail, or lockup that houses youthful inmates or youthful detainees does NOT qualify as experience with juvenile populations or juvenile settings.


A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, or a high school degree and equivalent career-related experience defined as five years of recent full-time public safety, law enforcement, or corrections experience in a supervisory position.

Other admission requirements:

Two professional references submitted via the PRC’s reference collection process addressing the applicant’s key competencies in facility operations knowledge, experience with PREA, analytical skills, writing skills, and commitment to sexual safety for those in confinement. Applicants will also be asked to submit contact information of employer(s)/supervisor(s) who can verify the applicant's minimum experience and current employment (as applicable).

Select applicants should expect to participate in a telephone interview.

Additional detail regarding minimum experience requirements:

Significant auditing experience means regular job responsibilities focused on the objective, unbiased, systematic examination of operations/performance to determine the adequacy of policies, procedures, and practices, and their compliance with established Standards or guidelines. Paper-based auditing, unless part of a larger performance-based audit process, does NOT qualify as significant auditing experience. Paper-based auditing includes tasks such as fiscal or financial reviews, examinations of accounting practices, and oversight of the work of subordinates. Preparation for audits conducted by another person or entity also does not qualify as significant auditing experience.

Significant quality assurance experience entails regular job responsibilities focused on monitoring and analyzing the outcomes and effectiveness of business or enterprise procedures, processes, practices, and/or operations, and includes designated responsibility for recommending and implementing changes to these procedures, processes, practices, and/or operations to enhance outcomes and effectiveness.

Significant compliance monitoring experience requires regular job responsibilities focused on monitoring and/or inspecting operations to ensure that a public agency or other regulated unit obeys specific laws, regulations, or other legal requirements, such as a court-ordered consent decree or other enforcement mechanism. Compliance activities may include records reviews and responding to internal or external requests for information. Contract monitoring, unless part of a larger compliance monitoring job responsibility, does not qualify as significant compliance experience.

Significant investigations experience refers to regular job responsibilities focused on formal, systematic, and detailed examinations or assessments to ascertain the facts involved in a situation/incident, where there are allegations or indications of criminal or civil violations, or staff, employee, or offender misconduct.

Significant experience working to implement PREA as a PREA Coordinator or PREA Compliance Manager requires regular job duties advancing PREA implementation efforts within an agency or facility.

Significant professional experience related to safety in confinement facilities, accompanied by demonstrated expertise regarding facility operations, refers to regular and focused efforts on issues related to the safety and well-being of inmates in correctional or detention facilities. Because this experience will not necessarily come from in-facility employment (e.g., technical assistance provider), this experience type must be accompanied in the application by demonstrated expertise in facility operations.

Clarification of the meaning of “with the facility type or set of Standards in which the applicant seeks certification(s)”: In addition to applicants who are employed by a corrections, detention, or other relevant law enforcement agency or facility, PREA Auditor Training and certification are also open to applicants with related work experience in the justice system, in which exposure to confinement agency or facility operations and contact with relevant offender populations are regular components of the position or role. Such positions and roles include, but are not limited to, work in:

  • Probation and parole
  • Offender re-entry
  • Law enforcement and public safety
  • Legal positions, including prosecution and defense
  • Inmate and victim advocacy
  • On-site technical assistance or consultations related to corrections and/or conditions of confinement
  • Other settings that provide appropriate exposure in confinement facilities

Auditor Training

To be considered for PREA auditor candidate training, individuals must complete an online application and submit a current resume/curriculum vitae (no longer than 10 pages in length); two references; and copies of transcripts from an accredited school or a letter from an academic institution confirming the applicant’s highest diploma, degree, or academic achievement. 

Please be aware that submission of your application does not guarantee approval or invitation to a PREA Auditor Training. PRC staff will review all applications for the required qualifications, and those who do not meet the criteria, or who do not provide adequate supporting materials to verify experience or work history, may be declined or negatively reviewed.

In the event that there are more applicants for each training event than seats available, DOJ will select applicants with the goal of developing and enhancing a broad and diverse pool of certified auditors, with consideration given to factors such as: geographic location, intent to audit, professional qualifications, and in which type of facility each applicant will be certified to audit.

The 2023 PREA Auditor Training application is now closed.

Field Training Program

As a requirement for certification, auditor trainees (ATs) are required to complete a training audit as part of the Field Training Program (FTP). The goal of the FTP is to provide an opportunity to transfer the knowledge and skills attained during the classroom-based PREA auditor training to a field-auditing experience in a supervised and supportive environment. Specifically, the Field Training Program audit will strengthen PREA auditing skills, improve understanding of the PREA standards, increase experience with the PREA auditing process and methodology, and give an opportunity to learn and use the audit tools and other documents.

Auditor trainees are assigned a specific training audit and are expected to complete the full training program. Participation in the Field Training Program requires approximately 27 weeks to complete all phases of the audit, including: 4 hours during the pre-FTP phase, 40-45 hours during the pre-onsite audit phase, a minimum of 55 “working hours” during the onsite audit phase, and 40-45 hours during the post-onsite audit phase.

PRC staff will share details about lodging and travel to the host facility during the pre-onsite audit phase. Auditor trainees may be reimbursed a portion of their expenses for travel, lodging, and other approved expenses for the field training audit (reimbursable per federal per diem guidelines).

Learn more about how agencies and facilities can apply to host a Field Training Program audit.

Probationary certification status

All newly certified auditors are required to enter probationary certification status and must successfully complete all the requirements to become fully certified by DOJ. Probationary certification status assists newly certified auditors in learning to effectively and comprehensively communicate their audit findings and carry out their auditing obligations. 

For more information on probationary certification status requirements, see the PREA Auditor Handbook, chapter 10: Probationary certification status. 

Auditor oversight

The DOJ PREA Management Office operates under a statutory obligation to evaluate all PREA auditors for compliance with the auditor certification agreement, and is responsible for the enforcement of minimum qualifications for and ethical responsibilities of PREA auditors, including taking disciplinary action as appropriate. (See 34 U.S.C. §30307(e)(8)(A)(iii).) To fulfill its obligation to evaluate an auditor’s performance, the PREA Management Office, through the PREA Audit Oversight Program, monitors and reviews the work of DOJ-certified PREA auditors, with the goal of ensuring the high quality and integrity of PREA audits. 

Audit oversight begins with an assessment of auditors’ performance and conduct that guides many of the interventions employed under the oversight umbrella. The audit assessment serves as a diagnostic tool to tailor interventions and sanctions to the individual needs of and challenges identified with auditors’ work. The assessment is also informed by auditors’ performance in these interventions, to form a continuous feedback loop of information that allows the PREA Management Office to proactively provide support to auditors and respond with appropriate sanctions when necessary.

Based on the results of the audit assessment, there are four interventions that may be used by the PREA Management Office to support auditors and critically review their work, including: the Quality Improvement Program managed by the PREA Resource Center; an auditor peer review program; a disciplinary review of auditors who fail to meet the requirements of their auditor certifications; and remediation. These interventions may impact an auditor’s DOJ certification. A full description of these interventions and the audit assessment phase can be found in chapters 20–24 in the PREA Auditor Handbook.