Women prisoners ‘coerced to have sex with staff in exchange for cigarettes and alcohol’

Independent report into sex among female inmates finds more must be done to protect vulnerable offenders

Women detained in prisons in England and Wales have been coerced into having sex with staff in exchange for cigarettes and alcohol, a report has found.

According to the Commission on Sex in Prison, jail staff are inadequately trained to deal with female inmates and fail in their duty to support women, recognise bullying and identify relationships between prisoners.

The Commission has been hearing from agencies that work in prisons, members of staff and serving prisoners themselves to produce the UK’s first ever independent review on the issue of sex behind bars.

Examples of the abuse reportedly suffered by women in prison also included incidents known as “decrotching”, where inmates are made to smuggle drugs inside their bodies and later have them forcibly removed.

The Commission looked into both coercive and consensual sex among women in jail, and found evidence of cases where female inmates formed relationships as a source of comfort and support.

It heard that women were more likely to be open about friendship in prison than men, but also more likely to maintain sexual relationships in secret for fear of being separated.

Chris Sheffield, Chair of the Commission on Sex in Prison, said: “Women in prison are particularly vulnerable and more likely than men to have a history of being a victim of violence or sexual abuse.

“It is important that policies recognise these differences and are developed in order to protect the vulnerable.

“It is equally important that staff in women’s prisons receive specific training on working with women.”

A spokesperson for the Prison Service said it did not condone sex in prisons under any circumstances.

She told the BBC: “Sexual relations between prisoners are not commonplace. We do not condone sex in prisons or believe that prisoners in a relationship should share a cell.

“Reported incidents of sexual assault in prison are rare. Where an alleged sexual assault is reported or discovered it will be investigated and reported to the police if required.”

The Commission comprises academics, former prison governors and health experts, and was set up by the Howard League for Penal Reform, a charity campaigning to protect prisoners’ rights, reduce reoffending and cut down on prison populations.

Its report, published today, is the second in a series that has previously investigated sex among men in prison, and which will this year hear evidence about the healthy sexual development of young offenders.

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