A transgender woman, Layleen Polanco, was arrested in April of this year for misdemeanor charges of assault with bail set at $500. She was sent to Rikers Island because she could not afford the bail. The prison officials placed her in solitary confinement for a “disciplinary infraction,” NewNowNext stated. Polanco had epilepsy, and prison conditions are said to have contributed negatively to her health, as Polanco suffered multiple seizures while at Rikers.
Despite Polanco’s disorder, she was approved by a doctor on May 30 for solitary confinement, where she was placed without staff supervision or check-ins. It was due to the inadequate treatment and lack of monitoring that Polanco was found unresponsive for several hours before she was pronounced dead on June 7.
Polanco’s mother is now suing New York City after her daughter’s death for an undisclosed amount for damages. Her family and friends hosted a rally in June in order to voice their concerns for the mistreatment.
The mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, stated his condolences but shows no sign of further action which could result in a better, long-term plan to tackle the injustices the transgender community faces during incarceration.
It is not shocking news hearing about mistreatment of people of color and transgender folks while residing within a prison. The shock lies with the lack of action towards addressing the situation.
In the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 57 percent of the transgender people surveyed said they did not feel safe going to the police, even when they need it. Additionally, transgender prisoners “are ten times as likely to be sexually assaulted by their fellow inmates and five times as likely to be sexually assaulted by staff.”
This is an unnecessary and unfortunate example of the continuation of the mistreatment of transgender people of color that needs rapid attention.