Video: Wrongful Death of Transgender Woman Layleen Polanco

Layleen Polanco

Layleen Polanco

Layleen Polanco, 27, died in solitary confinement on June 7, 2019, on Rikers Island from the results of an epileptic seizure, the third that she suffered while incarcerated according to the medical examiner’s report. Article updated throughout.

New video obtained by NBC News shows Rikers Island Guards laughing and joking for nearly an hour before entering Polanco cell to check on her. According to policy Layleen Polanco should not have been put in punitive segregation (PSEG) (also known as solitary confinement) because of her medical condition.

The Department of Corrections Board conducted an investigation although delayed due to bureaucratic roadblocks, perhaps emplaced by the DA, found that the DOC was indeed at blame for her death.

Update: 17 Rikers Island guards face disciplinary action in transgender woman’s death

“What happened to Layleen was absolutely unacceptable and it is critical that there is accountability,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.

Polanco’s family attorney, David Shanies, said the city’s decision was only a small step in changing the system.

“Suspending or even firing individual employees will not save the next Layleen from dying,” he said in a statement. “We need to treat trans women as women. We need to end abusive solitary confinement. We need to treat people in jail as humans deserving safety and dignity.”

At the time, Polanco had just returned from a nine-day trip to Elmhurst Hospital “for psychosis/mania,” her family’s lawyer David Shanies said. Jail staff mulled putting her in protective custody, which is a form of isolation, or even a men’s facility, the report says.

The death review found a series of system failures in the jail’s placement of Polanco in solitary — and highlighted concerns for current inmates.

Correctional Health Service’s process for identifying people who are exempt from solitary confinement due to their medical history “is insufficient, inconsistent, and potentially susceptible to undue pressure from DOC,” according to the board.

Read more at The City “Jailer Pushed Layleen Polanco Into Rikers Island Solitary Confinement Despite Red Flags: Report”.

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Kelli, Busey is managing editor at Planet Transgender


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