Chris Grayling's plan to crackdown on prisoners in relationships sharing cells is "puritanical", according to a leading charity for penal reform.
The Howard League spoke out following reports the justice secretary was planning to ban prisoners shacking up together inside, with a source telling the Telegraph "we don't want and we will not accept prisoners replicating cosy, domestic relationships by being able to share cells in our prisons."
But Andrew Neilson, director of Campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said Grayling should be careful as any such plans were "unenforceable".
“It’s essential that prisons monitor what goes on, to avoid anything coercive, but given that it would be impossible to prevent casual encounters in prison, this would only hit those in meaningful relationships. Some might say that in an anger-filled and violent environment, a little love is no bad thing," he said.
“Chris Grayling should take care before putting time and money into an unenforceable puritanical crackdown. He will find human nature a powerful and costly adversary."
Sex in prisons is thought to be relatively widespread, but is technically not allowed. Currently little is known about the amount of sex in prison, both consensual and non-consensual, and conjugal visits are banned in prisons in the UK.
Speaking in June when the Howard League launched the first ever study of sex in prison, the body's chief executive Frances Crook said the UK was "behind the times" in talking about these issues, pointing out that most other European countries allow conjugal visits.
A Prison Service spokesperson said: "The prison service does not condone sex between prisoners, or believe that prisoners in a relationship should share a cell."