Here's A Transgender Woman's Letter From a Men's Prison in Texas


Earlier today we published a story on Passion Star, a transgender woman incarcerated in Texas who says she’s been subject to rape and violent attacks at the hands of other inmates for the past 12 years. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice did not move Star into safekeeping, a version of protective custody, until March of this year.

Below is her full letter to Jezebel, in which she describes quickly realizing that her complaints to TDCJ officials were going unheard, and says she’s “ecstatic” to finally be safe. She hopes to survive her sentence and make it home to her family.

Anna Merlan,
Hello, my name is Passion Star. I recently received your letter. Thank you for the concern. I do appreciate your writing…You say that you are interested in writing a story about my time in prison and why it has taken so long for TDCJ to act on my behalf to place me in a safe environment… After some thought, I am willing to talk to you about this and answer any questions that you may have concerning my time in confinement. I could talk to you by phone as well…But you’d have to set it up on the TDCJ offender telephone service. I’m not sure how that is done, nor am I sure whether or not you would be afforded any type of media priviledge. [sic] Jael would probably know.
Yes, you are right. Texas “says” it has good policies, but those policies aren’t followed or respected by the people in positions of power. Please allow me to answer your questions.
1. How soon after you were incarcerated did you start being subjected to physical and sexual assaults?
A: Almost immediately. Before my 1st year was done in TDCJ, I was forced into a coerced sexual relationship with a known gang member.
2. You’ve been at 7 different facilities. When did you realize that your complaints to TDCJ officials were going unheeded?
A: Almost immediately. I made my 1st complaints in 2003 on the Telford Unit and nothing was done.
3. When did you learn about the safekeeping program? Did you know anyone who was in the program?
A: I found out about it in 2003, on the Telford Unit. At that time the Telford Unit did house safekeeping custody inmates, just as it does now. So, I knew several people who were on safekeeping.
4. What were you feelings when you learned that you were finally being put on safekeeping?
A. I was ecstatic. [Smiley face] Really, I felt relief and felt that just maybe I’d now be allowed the opportunity to survive long enough to make it home to my family. Then, in another way, it felt crazy coming back to Telford Unit, where I made my 1st requests for protection. I can’t help but think about the violence I could’ve possibly avoided had my complaints been heeded then.
5. My understanding is that safekeeping means that you are still in general population, and you might have a lot of interaction with gen pop inmates. How has your experience been so far? Do you feel more safe? Are any assailants still able to get near you?
A: Basically, you are right. Us housed on safekeeping still interact with general population. But only to a certain extent. We don’t live in general population with all of the gangs and gang violence. Also, it is better than solitary confinement because solitary is a form of torture + at the end of the day not an appropriate means to keep someone safe from harm. I feel safer on safekeeping. I am still able to go to school, which I have signed up for. And I am more secure…if an assailant were determined enough he could still get to me but for the most part I am in a better living environment than I have been in the past.
I will write again. I just wanted to be able to get this to you as soon as possible. Thank you for writing. I am very appreciative of your concern. Thank you.
Passion Star

Star is currently eligible for parole, and is due for release in 2022.

The entrance to the Barry B. Telford Unit in New Boston, Texas, where Star is currently incarcerated. Image via Google Maps

Contact the author at [email protected].
Public PGP key
PGP fingerprint: 67B5 5767 9D6F 652E 8EFD 76F5 3CF0 DAF2 79E5 1FB6

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin