Layleen Polanco: No criminal charges in death of transgender Rikers Island inmate

Layleen Polanco

From New York Post by Julia Marsh and Lia Eustachewich

Criminal charges will not be brought in the case of a transgender inmate who died in her Rikers Island cell last year, the city’s Department of Investigation said Friday.

Layleen Polanco, 27, was found dead at Rikers’ Rose M. Singer Center on June 7, 2019, of complications of epilepsy. She was being housed in solitary confinement at the time — a condition that her family’s lawyer contends was a contributing factor in her death.

“DOI’s review of the case did not reveal any actions taken by [Department of Correction] staff that may have contributed to [Polanco’s] death,” reads the DOI report, which was released Friday.

Investigators did, however, find there was a 47-minute gap between tours of Polanco’s housing area. Inmates in solitary confinement are required to be checked on at least once every 15 minutes at irregular intervals, officials said.

The DOI said it referred the violation to the DOC for “appropriate administrative action.”

DOC Commissioner Cynthia Brann said the agency would pursue internal disciplinary measures.

“We send our deepest condolences to Layleen’s family and friends,” Brann said. “The safety and well-being of people in our custody is our top priority and we are committed to ensuring that all of our facilities are safe and humane. Even one death in our custody is one too many.”

Polanco was jailed because she was unable to post $500 bail for charges related to an arrest on April 13, at which time she also had an open warrant.

She was placed in solitary confinement for allegedly assaulting other inmates.

The DOI’s investigation was done in conjunction with the Bronx DA’s Office’s Public Integrity Bureau.

“The purview of this office is not to determine whether it was a wrong decision to place Ms. Polanco into Punitive Segregation while she was suffering from a documented seizure disorder,” Bronx DA Darcel Clark said in a statement Friday. “The purview of this office is to determine whether that decision rose to the level of criminal behavior.

“After an in-depth investigation by my Public Integrity Bureau, we have concluded that we would be unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any individual committed any crime associated with Ms. Polanco’s demise,” Darcel continued. “We will not be seeking any criminal charges related to this devastating event.”

Polanco’s family blasted her death as “criminal.”

“We never believed the Bronx District Attorney would hold anyone criminally responsible for it,” they said in a statement provided by their lawyer, David Shanies. “Layleen’s family has received amazing support from the community, but they have never relied on anyone but themselves, least of all the city government, to get justice for Layleen. In their pending federal lawsuit, they will hold Layleen’s killers to account.

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