Texas clarifies LGBT+ inmate policies as part of settlement

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas has agreed to clarify its policies regarding the treatment of LGBTQ inmates after reaching a settlement with a transgender ex-prisoner who alleges she was raped and beaten while incarcerated.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has modified policy to clarify that its practices officially comply with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act, according to agency spokesman Jeremy Desel. He said the state has two years to retrain staff on the changes, the Dallas Morning News reported.

Advocates provided more details about the terms.

"The first one is improvement to the intake process to help ensure that vulnerable people, like LGBT people, are identified and steps can be taken early in the process to protect them," said Demoya Gordon, an attorney with Lambda Legal, an LGBTQ law group. "The new policies also ... will make it such that TDCJ does a better job of getting vulnerable people into safekeeping where they are separated from people who may seek to abuse them."

The policy modifications came as part of a settlement state officials reached this week with Passion Star, a trans woman who filed a civil rights complaint in 2014. Star alleged that prison officials failed to protect her from sexual and physical abuse while housed in men's prisons. She was released last year.

"For years, I was raped and beaten in prison and when I asked for help I was ignored," she said. "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."

There were more than 570 inmates who identified as transgender in Texas prisons as of September, according to the department.

Gordon said the settlement is a small step toward better treatment of LGBTQ prisoners.

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The Gayly. March 17, 2018. 10:02 a.m. CST.