Speed Reads


Sex traffickers routinely exploit prison system to recruit vulnerable women into sex work

Prisons in the U.S. are often used as recruiting grounds for sex traffickers, an investigation by The Guardian found Friday.

Traffickers and pimps target incarcerated women by posting their bail, making the women indebted to them, or by financially supporting them through their time in prison, often creating an obligation of loyalty. Inmates' personal information is posted publicly online, and anyone can send money to any inmate. For vulnerable women who have no other place to turn, the recruiting pushes them into sex work, the investigation found.

To identify victims, traffickers sometimes employ women who are also in prison, who scout potential inmates who could be groomed and recruited. Women recall receiving letters from pimps who woo them with promises of financial and emotional security upon release, and describe feeling like there was no choice but to go along with the trafficker at the end of their sentence.

"[The pimps] bail you out and when you walk out of jail that's it, you owe them," one trafficking survivor told The Guardian. "You'll do anything not to go back to jail, and so you go out and you have to work it off — and more than likely, you're then never getting away from this man. He's got you now." Many women say that they were arrested for crimes they committed while under the control of a trafficker, further entrenching the cycle.

"Some of the most vulnerable, high-risk individuals in our society," says Nicole Bell, a trafficking survivor and anti-trafficking advocate, "are just trapped in a continuous loop of abuse and exploitation." Read more at The Guardian.