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J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 2003;31(3):354-60.

Confronting America's most ignored crime problem: the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003.

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Division of Professional and Graduate Studies, Franklin Pierce College, Rindge, NH, USA.


Prisoner sexual assault has plagued American corrections since its infancy in the 19th century. Although the incidence of prisoner sexual assault is unknown, recent studies reliably suggest the problem is widespread, often affecting the most vulnerable prisoners. The mental health and public health consequences, both within institutions and the community, are complex and devastating, requiring comprehensive intervention and treatment. These crimes have been largely ignored by correctional managers, compromising the safety and security of correctional institutions. The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 could play a vital role in managing a national scandal.

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