Women in U.S. prisons are being recruited by sex traffickers who force them into prostitution on their release, The Guardian reports. Traffickers are using government websites to obtain personal information, including mugshots, release dates and charge sheets to identify potential victims while they are still behind bars. Pimps use inmates in prisons and jails to befriend incarcerated women who, on their release, are trafficked into the $9.5 billion commercial sex industry. The Guardian found cases of the bail bond system being used in sex trafficking operations in at least five states. Pimps and sex buyers are locating incarcerated women awaiting a court date by using personal data such as mugshots and bail bonds posted online, or through corrupt bondsmen.
Traffickers bail women out of detention. Once released, the women are told they must work as prostitutes or have their bond rescinded and be sent back to jail. The Guardian found cases of the bail bond system being used by pimps and sex buyers in Florida, Texas, Ohio, North Carolina and Mississippi. “The pimps would use bail as a way to control us and keep us in debt bondage,” said one trafficking survivor from Tampa. She claimed she was forced to work as a prostitute to pay off her bail debt and locked inside a house and beaten if she didn’t bring home enough money. “Once when I tried to escape, the pimp revoked my bond. He found me, threw me in a car and got me sent back to jail,” she said. Diane Checchio, a former prosecutor in Orlando, said the bail bond system is routinely exploited by traffickers. Checchio said traffickers are targeting women involved in the criminal justice system across the nation. “I would find it very likely that this is happening in every state that has women’s records online,” she said.