Lambda Legal Reaches Favorable Settlement for Passion Star, Transgender Woman Sexually Assaulted in Texas Men's Prisons

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March 15, 2018
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Today Lambda Legal announced the resolution of a lawsuit against Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) on behalf of Passion Star, a Black transgender woman who filed a lawsuit alleging prison officials failed to protect her from sexual and physical abuse while incarcerated in male prisons.  

“For years, I was raped and beaten in prison and when I asked for help I was ignored. I was hurt, scared, and thrown in solitary in hopes that I would be forgotten, but today I can be proud that I never gave up. No one should be terrorized in prison and have to experience a nightmare like that,” said Passion Star.

“Passion experienced brutal violence, degradation, and discrimination in prison. She is a transgender woman who was forced to live in terror in a men’s prison and the officials charged with her care refused to take adequate steps to keep her safe,” said Demoya Gordon, Lambda Legal Transgender Rights Project Attorney. 

"We are pleased with the resolution reached with prison officials. We are hopeful that this sends a strong message to prison officials: Sexual assault and violence against LGBT people who are incarcerated will not be swept under the rug.” 

In October 2014, Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Passion claiming TDCJ officials acted in deliberate disregard to the real and evident threats she faced, ignoring the State’s own written policies regarding treatment of LGBT people in custody, the documented evidence of gang activity in Texas prisons, and the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA).

Passion Star was granted parole in December 2016 and released June 2017, 14 years after entering the TDCJ system and suffering horrific abuse as a transgender woman incarcerated in male prisons.

Today Lambda Legal announced that TDCJ settled this matter with Passion on terms agreeable to all parties. The settlement includes a monetary payment, along with systemic policy changes and training of TDCJ staff to better protect LGBT people still being held in TDCJ facilities from sexual abuse.

A self-portrait by Passion Star.

Background:

Now 34, as a teenager, Passion pled guilty to aggravated kidnapping after her then-boyfriend refused to return the used car they were test driving to the dealership, instead driving for several hours with the car salesman in the passenger seat and Passion in the back.  Passion was sentenced to 20 years in prison and transferred to the custody of TDCJ where she was housed in male facilities.

In the seven male facilities where she was housed, male inmates identified Passion as feminine. She was raped, forced to submit to undesired sexual acts to escape violence, and threatened with sexual assault. She filed dozens of grievances, complaints and requests to be placed in safekeeping, but instead of taking measures to protect her, TDCJ officials told her to “suck dick,” “fight” or to stop “acting gay” if she did not want to be assaulted.

In multiple prisons, Passion was placed in the general population in close proximity to inmates who she had identified as having threatened her, including one occasion in November 2013 where the identified inmate then attacked Passion, calling her a “snitching faggot,” and slashed her face eight times with a razor.

Only after Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit and an emergency motion on Passion’s behalf did TDCJ officials finally agree to place her in safekeeping in March 2015. She was paroled in December 2016 and released in June 2017.

Lambda Legal will continue fighting to end mistreatment of LGBT people who are incarcerated across the country.