Rethinking Prison Sex: Self Expression and Safety

Brenda V. Smith, American University Washington College of Law


This article analyzes legislation and policies that limit prisoners' sexual expression and autonomy. The article juxtaposes prisoners interest in sexual expression against the interests of the state in regulating sex by and between prisoners. The article concludes that the state has an interest in regulating sex between inmates and staff and in regulating coerced or forced sex between inmates. In other instances prisons could accommodate prisoners' interest in sexual expression and achieve important goals such as better decisionmaking; improved relations with family and partners to aid community reentry; reduction of prison rape; and as inmate management.