News Roundup: State Settles Suit Filed By Transgender Woman Who Was Raped And Beaten In Prison

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelMarch 16, 2018 4:22 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has settled a lawsuit with Passion Star, a black transgender woman who was repeatedly raped and beaten while incarcerated in male prisons.

Demoya Gordon is a staff and Transgender Rights Project Attorney with the LGBT advocacy group, Lambda Legal, who represented Star. She says, while in prison, Star was tenacious and resilient.

“And despite filing dozens of complaints and grievances with Texas prison officials, they refused to do anything to help her other than move her from one general population unit to the next though it became clear pretty quickly that would not solve the problem,” Gordon says.

Lambda Legal sued on behalf of Star in 2014, claiming prison official did not take steps to protect Star from abuse. That includes an attack in which a fellow inmate slacked Star in the face eight times. Gordon describes how officials treated Star when she filed complaints about the abuse she was enduring.

“They would call her derogatory slurs, they would tell her to stop acting gay. They would tell her to either fight or just have sex with people, so it was pretty egregious,” says Gordon.

Star, who was in prison for 14 years, was moved to safekeeping in 2015. That’s a form of protective housing for vulnerable inmates. She was granted parole in December 2016 and released last June. Lambda Legal says the terms of the settlement are agreeable to all parties. And Gordon explains part of that settlement includes improving the agency’s policies for protecting LGBT inmates. 

“They’ve agreed to include improvements in the policies to the intake process to ensure that vulnerable people, like LGBT people, are identified and steps can be taken early in the process to protect them with respect to decisions around housing, and things like that,” Gordon says.

A spokesperson for the TDCJ says the agency was already working to update LGBT policies before the settlement. However, the settlement specifically requires the state agency to train staff on the new policies. As a teenager, Star pled guilty to aggravated kidnapping. Her then-boyfriend refused to return a used car they were test-driving to the dealership. He drove around for several hours with the car salesman and Star in the backseat.

Texas industrial facilities are the worst offenders in the nation when it comes to polluting rivers, lakes, and waterways. That’s according to a report out Thursday from advocacy group, Environment Texas, and a California think thank.

Luke Metzger, executive director of Environment Texas told KETR in Commerce, “Nationally, about 40 percent of facilities were in non-compliance. In Texas it’s about 49 percent of our facilities.”

The report finds that between January of 2016 and September of 2017, Texas facilities released illegal levels of pollution 938 out of 8,100 excess releases during that period. Pennsylvania was second to Texas with 633.

The head of FEMA says the response to Hurricane Harvey in Texas is a “model” for his agency.

Houston Public Media reports that while testifying at the U.S. House Thursday, Brock Long said response was supported by FEMA, but managed and carried out by state and local governments. And he said that’s how it should be.

“My job is to work directly with governors, says Long “to understand what the response and recovery goals – or the preparedness goals, mitigation goals are – organize our resources, to help that governor achieve those goals.”

Long says he wants to give governors more authority to spend money on trailers or other temporary housing solutions after a disaster.