Justice more than a year late for Layleen Polanco
She was ordered to serve 20 days in solitary confinement at Rikers Island and only made it nine.
It’s been over a year since Layleen Polanco, a 27-year old Afro-Latina trans woman, died in solitary confinement, and a group of correctional officers are finally facing discipline.
During her intake at Rikers Island in mid-April, Polanco made it very clear that she suffered from a seizure disorder. On May 15, she was transferred to Elmhurst hospital’s psychiatric prison ward after experiencing hallucinations and suicidal ideation.
When she returned, she was put in solitary confinement and guards did not check on her for long periods of time, despite jail policies that said she needed to be checked every 15 minutes.
Polanco was ordered to be in confinement for 20 days, but she died on the ninth.
On Friday June 26, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that three officers and one captain have been suspended without pay in connection with Polanco’s death from a fatal seizure.
De Blasio said in a statement that their actions were “unacceptable.”
It is not yet known what disciplinary measures will be faced by the other 13 officers involved, but the New York City Department of Corrections told the New York Times that charges could include “failure to tour, inefficient performance, and making fraudulent logbook entries.”
Previously, the Department of Corrections declined to press charges against officers because they couldn’t prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that any crime was committed in association with Polanco’s death.
But a video published by NBC News showed guards repeatedly denying assistance to Polanco, and laughing at her while she was lying in her cell unconscious.
Layleen’s family has filed a wrongful death suit against Rikers and the DOC. The family’s attorney said in a statement that simply firing or suspending guards won’t save the life of a future Layleen.
“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,” the attorney said. Mayor De Blasio announced on Monday that New York City will end the use of solitary confinement.
“She should have never been in solitary confinement. Had we done this work a year and a half ago, perhaps we wouldn’t have had a Layleen Polanco,” said New York Board of Corrections Vice Chair Stanley Richards.
Users on Twitter are outraged and want her to #RestinPower.