Family Demands Answers After Trans Afro-Latina Layleen Polanco Dies in Her Rikers Prison Cell

Lead Photo: Creative Commons by torbakhopper is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Creative Commons by torbakhopper is licensed under CC BY 2.0
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On Friday, June 7, 27-year-old Afro-Latina Layleen Polanco died. Polanco, of House Xtravaganza, was found dead in her cell in Rikers Island. As her family asks for answers, many others are calling for action.

Polanco was arrested on April 13 but detained since April 16 on misdemeanor charges. She was supposed to be released this week, on June 13. While the cause of death hasn’t been confirmed, the Correction Department said it wasn’t because of “foul play” or violence, according to The Washington Post.

As the New York City medical examiner’s office investigates, Layleen’s family has released a statement demanding answers. “We are heartbroken over the death of our beloved Layleen, whose bright light was an inspiration to all who knew her,” the statement reads. “As we gather to mourn this tremendous loss, we are left shocked and outraged by the stony silence from the Department of Correction, Mayor’s Office, NYPD, and City government. The family demands answers, and we are entitled to them.

“Just days ago, Mayor de Blasio dedicated a monument to two pioneering transgender activists, telling the trans community that ‘we are sending a clear message: We see you…and we will protect you.’ The City failed to protect Layleen, and now it is trying to sweep her death under the rug. We will not allow it.”

Her family has hired a civil rights attorney and has garnered support from many. On Monday, hundreds headed to Foley Square to protest. Those who knew her said she wouldn’t have hurt herself but that because she had a seizure disorder, she “was not in a condition where she should’ve been left alone, unmonitored to die alone in the cell,” ABC 7 reported.

Far beyond New York, people have also donated more than $12,000 to help cover funeral costs.