Victory! Texas Prison Officials Agree to Place Passion Star in Safekeeping

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March 30, 2015
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A self-portrait of Passion Star.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (“TDCJ”) announced that today it will place Lambda Legal client Passion Star in Safekeeping as had been requested in an emergency motion filed earlier this month to protect her from further sexual assault and threats to her life. Passion Star is a transgender woman currently incarcerated in a TDCJ male facility.

Learn more about the case, Star v. Livingston.

Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Jael Humphrey issued the following statement:

“This is a tremendous relief for our client, who has been fighting for years for protection from horrific sexual and physical violence and constant threats of further assault and even death if she continued to speak out about the abuse she suffered as a result of her gender identity. TDCJ has an obligation to protect people in its custody from sexual and physical violence without subjecting them to indefinite detention in isolation—a form of torture—if they complain about abuse. TDCJ officials over the years had repeatedly denied Passion Safekeeping, a program established to help protect prisoners vulnerable to abuse in the general population. We hope that Passion’s placement in Safekeeping will keep her safe as we continue to pursue her claim against TDCJ officials for damages from past assaults. At last Texas officials have taken appropriate and long-overdue steps to protect our client.” 

In papers filed earlier this month, Lambda Legal argued that TDCJ should be ordered to take immediate steps to protect Passion, who in November was transferred to the Clements Unit, known for having some of the highest sexual assault rates in the nation. There she was placed in the general population, despite having been raped, physically assaulted, and threatened with murder in six previous TDCJ facilities where she similarly had been housed in the general population. Soon after she arrived, inmates told her she had to have a man or be raped and tried to lay claim to her as though she were property. As the daily threats continued and escalated, Clements Unit officials warned her not to file any more requests for protection. However, her situation became so desperate that on February 19 she again begged TDCJ staff to place her in Safekeeping. Lambda Legal filed an emergency motion on her behalf when TDCJ staff refused and instead placed her in a cell with a gang member who threatened to kill her if she continued to complain or “snitch.”

“Passion’s life was in imminent danger and, twelve years after the passage of the Prison Rape Elimination Act, prison officials cannot pretend that they are unaware that LGBT individuals are vulnerable to sexual abuse when incarcerated,” Humphrey added.  “Rather than take Passion’s courageous requests for protection seriously, TDCJ staff moved her closer to the people from whom she sought protection and threatened to confine her in isolation if she complained. Today, Passion at last will get the respect and protection she has been fighting for.”

Read the press release.