Irish Penal Reform Trust

Eng & Wales: Howard League Commission on sex in prison

25th February 2014

[Links updated 25th February 2014]

The Howard League for Penal Reform has established an independent Commission on Sex in Prison which will, for the first time, examine the nature and scale of the issues and problems associated with sex inside prison. The Commission will focus on three broad themes:

  • Consensual sex in prison
  • Coercive sex in prison  
  • Healthy sexual development among young people in prison

The Commission is made up of academics, former prison governors and health experts, who will conduct primary research and prison visits, organise seminars and public events and hear evidence from a wide range of experts. The review will also extend to other jurisdictions in an effort to identify best practice. The Commission is expected to publish briefings on interim findings, as well as a final report at the end of the two year investigation.

The establishment of the Commission on Sex in Prison is a positive and welcomed development, since so little information is currently available regarding consensual or coercive sex in prison. The first meeting of the Commission discussed issues such as the difficulty in determining whether a relationship is consensual or coercive, the lack of a uniform approach to the supply of barrier protection in prisons and the reluctance among male prisoners to report a sexual assault. Positive outcomes can already be seen as the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman for England and Wales published a bulletin on sexual abuse after sharing its concerns with the Commission.

Read more:

  • More about the Commission on Sex in Prison here.
  • Minutes of the first meeting of the Commission here.
  • Media report on launch of Commission here.
  • Minutes of 'Consensual Sex between Prisoners' seminar (June 2013) here.
  • Briefing no.1 - Consensual sex among men in prison here.
  • Howard League - 'Women in Prison: Commission finds evidence of coercive and consensual sex' here
  • Briefing no.2 - Women in Prison: Coercive and consensual sex here

Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.



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