A transgender inmate in New York City was found dead in a Rikers Island cell on Friday, 7 June.
Layleen Polanco was found unresponsive at about 2:40 p.m. Friday by an officer conducting a tour of a housing area at the Rose M. Singer Center, the jail that houses female inmates.
According to the Department of Corrections, medics attempted to revive her for an hour before she was officially declared dead.
“Any death in our custody is a tragic loss, and we are looking into how this happened,” a Department of Corrections spokesperson said.
However, Polanco’s family members have been inconsolable and demand answers.
“We are heartbroken over the death of our beloved Layleen, whose bright light was an inspiration to all who knew her,” her family said in a statement on Sunday. They also said that the city “failed to protect Layleen.”
“The family demands answers and we are entitled to them,” they further added.
“This is a tragic loss and we extend our deepest condolences to her family,” Correction Commissioner Cynthia Brann said. “We are conducting a full investigation as the safety and well-being of people in our custody is our top priority.”
Rikers Island is located in the East River between Queens and the Bronx. Furthermore, it is NYC’s main jail complex. Rikers is notorious for abuse and neglect of its prisoners. This also includes the use of solitary confinement, sexual assault, officer brutality, and abuse of LGBTI and mentally ill inmates.
Moreover, there have been at least six notable inmate deaths at Rikers since 2012.
New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently condemned the use of solitary confinement at Rikers Island.
‘A prison sentence is not a license for gov torture and human rights violations,’ she wrote on Twitter. ‘That‘s what solitary confinement is.’
New York City has also announced plans to shut down the troubled prison by 2026. Their decision spurred in part by incidents such as the high profile death of Kalief Browder, a former inmate who killed himself after years of harsh treatment at Rikers.
Source: Gay Star News, NBC News