Layleen Polanco, a 27-year old transgender woman, was found dead in her cell on Rikers Island in New York a week before she was due to be released. If she could afford to pay $500 in bail, she would have been released sooner.
Polanco was pronounced dead an hour after she was found unresponsive in her cell. She is known to have an illness that causes sudden seizures, but it is not yet determined if that or what other factor is the cause of her death. No signs of violence or foul play were found, according to The New York City Department of Corrections and added that an investigation is currently ongoing.
Polanco, who was arrested in April for allegedly attacking a cab driver and possessing a controlled substance, was about to be released the next week after she died.
Polanco’s sister, Melania Cubilette, said their family was not given enough information about her sister’s death.
“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 said in a statement. “The family demands answers and we are entitled to them. The City failed to protect Layleen, and now it is trying to sweep her death under the rug. We will not allow it.”
Meanwhile, several activists are calling on state officials to shut down Rikers Island. A rally was held last Monday to demand justice for Polanco.
“This tragic loss of yet another member of the trans community comes just days after the start of Pride season,” organizers of the rally wrote. “There is no pride to be had while trans folks continue to face an epidemic of fatal violence.”
Polanco, also known as Layleen Xtravaganza, is a member of the House of Xtravaganza, one of the most prominent underground ballroom houses in New York. She is the 10th Black transwoman who was found dead this year.