Fourteen years after entering the all-male Telford State Prison in Texas (TDCJ), transgender woman Passion Star is being granted parole.
“Passion’s experience in custody has been punctuated by acts of interpersonal and institutional violence,” Demoya Gordon, Lambda Legal Staff and Transgender Rights Project Attorney said in a press release.
“Throughout her sentence, she has remained resilient,” Gordon continued. “She will leave Telford as a powerful advocate against sexual violence and assault in prisons. Her story is not one of a victim bent and broken by a faulty system, but of a fighter who braved incredible odds to see justice done.”
Star has been represented by Lambda Legal who filed a lawsuit on her behalf in October 2014. Star has been exposed to repeated sexual assault since her entering TCDJ custody in 2002, including rape, physical assault, and even a razor attack that resulted in multiple slash wounds to her face.
According to the court case, Star has requested to be placed in safekeeping by TDCJ officials on multiple occasions, but instead of helping, the officials told her to “suck dick,” “fight,” or “stop acting gay” in order to avoid assault.
“Texas must end sexual violence in its prisons and jails,” reads the Lambda Legal campaign against rape in Texas jails. “Texas must no longer callously deny incarcerated people their right to protection, or threaten them with isolation when they complain of abuse.”
Lambda’s campaign aims to enforce the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), which was unanimously passed by Congress — but Governor Rick Perry dismissed the act as “ill-conceived” and opted to pass on funding that was previously earmarked for the prevention of rape in Texas jails.
According to Lambda Legal, the act “requires states to take measure to eliminate sexual abuse of people in custody by, for example, screening and separating particularly vulnerable people, like transgender women in male facilities, from likely aggressors.”
“Somebody, somehow, needs to shed light on what is taking place her in Texas prisons,” Star wrote in a statement to Lambda Legal. “TDCJ officials get away with so much and disregard so many legitimate threats to people’s safety, and it needs to stop somewhere. I fight for my life every day in here. Safety from rape and assault is not a privilege. It’s a right, and I hope that this lawsuit will make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”