What is the Star-Farmer’s Grace Initiative?
Star-Farmer’s Grace Initiative is a Black Trans Women Inc led initiative to support our Texas Trans community by ending the pipeline to pre-trial detention and ultimately mass incarceration. The inspiration to start this initiative was the unnecessary death of Layleen Polanco, who was arrested in April 2019 and held for non violent offense charges.Polanco was arrested for nonviolent offenses and only had to stay in jail because she could not afford the $500 bail. Although the corrections staff could not authorize solitary confinement for Polanco because of her seizure disorder, they put her into solitary confinement anyway. Although officers knew of her epilepsy and that Polanco had already suffered multiple seizures. Her third seizure happened and the guards laughed at her and left her unmonitored locked in a cell on the floor. This is not a case of a mistake or a medical problem that slipped through the cracks. This was a thought-out decision to put a person in a situation where the risks of injury and death were obvious and known. We, as community leaders, could not help but think about how she was only in jail at the mercy of this transphobic negligence of the State because she couldn’t afford $500 dollar.
This kind of negligence is an ongoing problem we have seen for decades. The fund is named after 2 Black trans women. One is inmate activist Dee Farmer. Dee Farmer is the Black trans woman who spearheaded one of the most important trans victories you never heard of. The Farmer v. Brennan case. of 1989, where Farmer sued prison officials after she was beat and gang raped due to their negligence and in ability to keep her safe of a Terre Haute prison. The case changed the legal landscape for prison assault cases and the public dialogue about rape in prison for all gender and gender identities. It lead to the Prison Rape Elimination Act, PREA, being made into law. Although Dee Farmer had done all that work to protect trans women in prison, 30 year later Passion Star found herself in the same exact situation in a Texas prison. With The PREA Act, Passion was able to sue the Texas Dept of Criminal Justice and won her lawsuit. Do you see a pattern here? These two Black trans women resilience and drive made this Trans led intergenerational #MeToo moment deserves reverence as our fund’s namesake.
We are Black, queer, trans, young, elder, and immigrant. The history of jails, prisons, and detention centers do not take care of our people.We know that black trans women have a disproportionate contact with the criminal justice system and they have higher levels of abuse in prison and jails. Here is some more information about trans women’s experience in jail.
We want to do whatever we can to keep our community members out of situations like Layleen, Passion and Dee’s. So we are leading a tactical bail out strategy to free as many Black trans women as possible with non-violence offenses. We know that Black trans women are pillars and caretakers of the Queer community. We know that without infrastructure to help them do that, its can lead them being vulnerable and isolated to the whims of the State . They can serve no one being locked up in the system. In addition to bailing out community members, we also provide support services, fellowship programs, and training opportunities. We do this in order to support their growth and development of their leadership without the shame that may come from being people who have experienced incarceration. With this initiative, we are also conducting research and documenting how bail devastates our communities through statistical reporting, ethical story sourcing and sharing, and archiving.
So if you know any black trans women who have been incarcerated in TX, contact us at www.Blacktranswomen.org
If you would like to donate to our efforts, you can do that here https://blacktranswomen.org/campaigns/star-farmers-grace-fund/