Family of Transgender Inmate Who Died in Solitary Confinement on Rikers Island to Receive $5.9M From NYC

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Layleen Polanco, 27, was jailed because she could not post $500 bail for an arrest nearly two months before her death.

The family of a transgender inmate is set to receive $5.9 million from New York City after their loved one died while in solitary confinement in a Rikers Island jail complex in 2019. Layleen Polanco, 27, was jailed for two months because she could not post $500 bail for an arrest.

She died in June 2019 while in solitary confinement for allegedly assaulting other prisoners on three occasions. She had also suffered from epilepsy. The family has reportedly settled with the city and will receive $5.9 million in damages.

“This settlement will allow Layleen’s family to move forward without enduring years of protracted litigation and reliving their trauma,” Polanco’s family lawyer, David Shanies, said in a statement. “Achieving the largest settlement in the city’s history for a death in jail should serve as a powerful statement that trans lives matter.”

Earlier this summer, the Department of Corrections announced 17 jail staffers, including three guards and a captain, were facing disciplinary charges linked to Polanco’s death, following an internal agency probe. The city's Department of Investigation and the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, which conducted a joint investigation of the case, later declined to press criminal charges against the officers involved.

Officers are expected to check on inmates in solitary at least once every 15 minutes but investigators found that there was a 47-minute gap between guard tours of Polanco’s housing area on the day she died.

The Department of Investigations has said it referred the violation to the Department of Corrections for “appropriate administrative action.”