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Family of Layleen Polanco Wins $5.9 Million, Largest Inmate Death Settlement in NY History

Updated: Sep 1, 2020

Since the untimely death of transgender woman, Layleen Polanco, Gaye Magazine has been following her story. After being unable to pay her $501 bail, Layleen was sent to Rikers Island where she later died of epilepsy. Layleen's death in 2019 has since been an example of the continued neglect and mistreatment of transgenders in the prison system.

The most recent outcome of her families lawsuit against the state has resulted in the highest paying settlement in inmate death in NYC history, totaling 5.9 million dollars. Despite this historic marker, Layleen's sister Melania Brown says it is not enough, “I have no faith in the city, I have no faith in anything that they do, besides them paying people out, that’s all they do. That’s their way of saying sorry. I do hope this settlement makes a powerful statement that Black trans lives do matter and that we need a change moving forward.”

Brown and others are demanding changes such as ending solitary confinement, closing the jails at Rikers Island and firing the correctional officers.

Layleen was diagnosed with epilepsy and had had two previous seizures during her time in jail. Even after two fights with other inmates, a jail psychiatrist refused to put her in solitary confinement due to her condition, however the Board of Correction stated, a different clinician approved afterwards. According to the law, Layleen was supposed to be checked on every 15 minutes. Video showed that the correctional officers would go 30 -40 minutes without checking on her and it was during that time she had her seizure and passed away.

Benny Boscio Jr., the president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, said that the correctional officers were not the one who approved for Layleen to be put into isolation, saying, “We understand her family’s pain over her loss,” he said, “but in this case, correction officers did nothing wrong and are being scapegoated.”

Mayor de Blasio has commented that the captain and three other officers have been suspended without pay but there is no note on what more action has been taken with the other officers.

Despite the great accomplishments we love to see the community pushing forward for real change and reform. What do you think #gayes is this a win, or is this just the beginning?


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