A transgender woman named Passion Star was granted parole on December 6 after serving 14 years of a 20 year sentence at all-male detention facilities, most recently at the Telford State Prison in Bowie County, Texas.
“Passion’s experience in custody has been punctuated by acts of interpersonal and institutional violence,” Demoya Gordon, an attorney with Lambda Legal’s Transgender Rights Project, said in a statement.
According to Lambda Legal, during her incarceration, Star experienced repeated rapes, physical assaults and a razor attack that left slash wounds on her face.
“Throughout her sentence, she has remained resilient,” Gordon added. “She will leave Telford as a powerful advocate against sexual violence and assault in prisons.”
Star was originally incarcerated when as a teenager she pleaded guilty to aggravated kidnapping based on allegations that she and her boyfriend at the time refused to return a used car they were test driving.
The boyfriend, who was at the wheel of the car with the auto salesman in the passenger’s seat and Star in the backseat, drove the car 40 miles out of town and abandoned the salesman on the side of the road. The salesman notified police who pursued the couple. The car ended up in a ditch when the boyfriend lost control during the chase.
In 2014, Lambda Legal filed a complaint on behalf of Star in the U.S. District Court in Houston maintaining that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice staff did not attempt to protect her, but rather displayed “deliberate indifference” to her safety and “cruel and unusual punishment,” which suggested a violation of the Eighth Amendment.
In her complaint Star claims prison officials told her to “suck dick,” “fight,” or stop “acting gay” to escape assault.
The complaint was decided in Star’s favor and the Department of Criminal Justice agreed it would place her in a program established to help protect prisoners vulnerable to abuse in the general population.
Star’s plight was the subject of a May 2015 report in the New York Times.
In their announcement of Star’s parole, Lambda Legal said, “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.”
Lambda Legal has created a “Stop Prison Rape” campaign. Find out how you can encourage Texas’s leadership to work more actively to end sexual assault and violence in Texas prisons at this link.