Trans Inmate Found Dead in Rikers Island Jail Cell

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday June 10, 2019

A trans inmate was found unresponsive in her cell on Rikers Island on the afternoon of June 7, reported the New York Post.

The story said the inmate was found at about 2:40 p.m. and although efforts were made for about an hour to save her, she did not survive.

Reports did not specify a cause of death, but NY1 reported the inmate to be 27-year-old Layleen Polanco. NY1 reported that Polanco was being held on charges of assault and possession of a controlled substance.

The Department of Corrections issued a statement in which a spokesperson said, "Any death in our custody is a tragic loss," and declared that the DOC is "looking into how this happened."

NBC News reported that, according to the DOC, violence was not a factor in Polanco's death.

Polanco's family issued a statement demanding answers. "We are heartbroken over the death of our beloved Layleen, whose bright light was an inspiration to all who knew her," the statement said.

A rally to "demand justice" for Polanco was announced via Twitter. The rally was slated for the evening of June 10.


Polanco belonged to New York City's House of Xtravaganza, a prominent house from the city's underground ballroom scene. The House of Xtravaganza posted about Polanco's death at its Facebook page.

A GoFundMe page has been created to raise money for Polanco's family.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.