Transgender Woman Inmate Dies at Rikers

A transgender woman was found dead in her Rikers Island cell Friday, June 7.

What We Know…

  • Layleen Polanco was found dead in her cell in the New York City jail less than two months after she was arrested for alleged possession of a controlled substance and assault of a cab driver.
  • She was placed in the female inmate portion of Rikers, the Rose M. Singer Center, which recently began housing transgender women.
  • The jail has had a history of violence and has been particularly accused of failing to meet the physical and mental health needs of transgender inmates.
  • Just this year jail guards at Rikers Island were accused of illegally stripping and searching women. In the face of many similarly violent and troublesome accusations, Mayor Bill de Blasio created a plan of neighborhood jails across the city in an effort to close Rikers Island.
  • A rally was held for Polanco, hosted by the New York City Anti-Violence Project and other advocacy groups on Monday, June 10. This tragic loss of yet another member of the trans community comes just days after the start of Pride season.
  • “There is no Pride to be had while trans folks continue to face an epidemic of fatal violence,” organizers wrote on the description of the event on Facebook.
  • Polanco’s family and advocacy groups are asking for a full investigation of the particular event. Her family released a statement through their lawyer, David B. Shanies.

  • The Women’s Caucus of New York City Council, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the Women’s March organization have all spoken out in support of trans women around the world following the injustice of Polanco’s death.

Polanco’s death is being connected to a recent surge of violence against transgender Americans.