The head of Texas’ prison system will remain a defendant in a federal lawsuit being brought by a transgender inmate who’s been repeatedly assaulted and raped in men’s prison facilities.
U.S. District Judge Alfred A. Bennett refused to remove Brad Livingston, the executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, as a defendant in Zollicoffer v. Livingston, the suit filed by Lambda Legal on behalf of the inmate, Passion Star.
According to a statement released on Lambda Legal’s website, Bennett’s decision shows “that Livingston has a responsibility under federal law to establish reasonable policies and procedures or train and supervise TDCJ staff to prevent sexual abuse. It also highlighted the heightened risk that LGBT prisoners face in custody.”
In the order released yesterday, Bennet wrote, “Plaintiff was sentenced to serve time in prison. She was not sentenced to be raped and assaulted by her fellow inmates. It is difficult to believe that [Livingston] did not know about the problem.”
The problem Bennet refers to is one of “deliberate indifference” to the consistent and violent threats of sexual violence made against Star, who has lodged dozens of grievances and complaints along with pleas to be moved for safekeeping.
In response to these requests, prison officials allegedly told Star to either “suck dick,” “fight” or stop “acting gay.”
On one specific occasion, when Star requested to be moved away from a violent gang member who said he “owned” her, prison officials moved her closer to her assailant’s cell. The next morning, the gang member attacked her, slashing her face with a razor.
“Actions, and inaction, have consequences,” said Lambda Legal’s Demoya Gordon. “TDCJ’s willful decision to leave Passion Star unprotected resulted in horrific sexual abuse and violence, and we are grateful the court will allow us to prove this deliberate inaction started at the top. TDCJ, under Livingston’s leadership, needs to be held accountable.”