The information is readily available online: The mugshot of a female inmate, the charges she was convicted on, and her release date. And predators are using it, finds the Guardian in an investigation. It reports that sex traffickers are both wooing "potential victims while they are still behind bars" and even preying on them before they get there by manipulating the bail bond system. The Guardian found cases where pimps paid women's bail—alerted to their situation, again, by online records or nefarious bondsmen—only to force them into sex work to "pay off" that debt in Florida, Texas, Ohio, North Carolina, and Mississippi. And it's not occasional, according to a former Florida prosecutor who tells the Guardian that all but about 20% of the sex trafficking cases she handled in 2016 involved these bondsmen working with traffickers.
For the women already in prison, the traffickers use letters and calls to reel them in. In a companion piece, the Guardian shares Kate's story: While incarcerated at Florida's Lowell Correctional Institution, a stranger named Richard Rawls began to write to her, saying he saw her mugshot online and that it stuck with him. He knew she'd be out soon. He told her to "come on home to your daddy," that he would provide a comfortable home and all the love she needed. Instead, she was taken to a roach-infested house guarded by pit bulls; inside were other former inmates from the same prison. Rawls fed her drugs then demanded she pay him back for them by working as a prostitute. Four months later, she was freed by a SWAT team. Read the full investigation here, or more on Rawls here. (More sex trafficking stories.)