Death Of Black Trans Woman In Riker's Island Jail Cell Sparks Questions, 10th Trans Woman Found Dead In 2019

Death Of Black Trans Woman In Riker's Island Jail Cell Sparks Questions, 10th Trans Woman Found Dead In 2019

Layleen Polanco was arrested for assaulting a driver in New York earlier this year, and activists are demanding answers.

After a transgender woman died in a New York jail on Friday last week, her family member and activists are demanding answers. 

According to The Washington Post, 27-year-old black trans woman, Layleen Polanco, also known as Layleen Xtravaganza was being held at the Rose M. Singer Center on Rikers Island, a facility that houses female detainees and sentenced inmates, when she was discovered unresponsive in her cell on Friday afternoon and later declared dead. 


Human Rights Campaign states that Polanco is the 10th trans woman to be found dead in the US this year. Social activists and members of the transgender community are citing her death as another example of discrimination and danger faced by transgender women of color.  


“Ms. Polanco’s passing is a tragic reminder of the heightened risk and physical and emotional torture that transgender people — especially those from communities of color — face in the criminal legal system, particularly while in custody," the Legal Aid Society, which had represented Polanco, said in a statement on Monday. 


"Her heartbreaking and untimely death warrants a swift, complete, independent, and transparent investigation from the City. We join New Yorkers in demanding justice for Ms. Polanco, her family, and for her community.” She continued. 


Polanco was arrested in mid-April for allegedly assaulting a cab driver in Harlem and having a controlled substance; she was jailed in New York City’s Riker’s Island Jail for nearly two months, most likely because she could not afford bail to be released.


Polanco was found unresponsive in her cell at the Rose M. Singer women’s facility on Friday afternoon. Medics attempted to revive her for about an hour before she was pronounced dead. Polanco was reportedly being kept in a housing unit meant to reduce violence against trans and gender non-conforming people. 


Polanco’s cause of death has not yet been determined, but the DOC said it was not the result of violence or “foul play." 

The New York City medical examiner’s office was investigating the death, spokeswoman Aja Worthy-Davis said. 


But Polanco’s family members are not satisfied with the department’s response. They released a statement through their lawyer Sunday saying that “the city failed to protect Layleen, and now it is trying to sweep her death under the rug.”

“We will not allow it,” they said. 


David Shanies, who is representing the family, including Polanco’s mother, Arecelis Cubilette, and sister, Melania Brown, said, “They’re devastated, they’re shocked, they’re in grief." 

Indya Moore, a model, and star of the television series “Pose,” mourned Polanco’s loss on Twitter and helped publicize the case on social media in recent days.


The Anti-Violence Project, an activist group, announced that a vigil in Polanco’s honor will be held on Monday night outside a courthouse in Lower Manhattan. Shanies, the lawyer for Polanco’s family, said that it was organized independently but only some relatives planned to attend.

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