New York City has reached a settlement with the family of Layleen Polanco, a 27-year-old trans woman who died at Rikers Island jail after having an epileptic seizure while in solitary confinement.
Polanco’s family, from the very beginning, slammed the city for failing to protect their loved one. Her sister, Melania Brown, told the Times on Monday that the settlement, which is still being finalized, was only “just the beginning of justice.”
“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,” she said. “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.”
Polanco’s death sparked protests to highlight the discrimination that trans people deal with within the criminal justice system and prompted New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to push for an end to solitary confinement in city jails, the Times notes.
Polanco, who had a history of seizures, was found unresponsive in her cell at the Rose M. Singer Center in June 2019. The city’s Board of Correction, an oversight panel, determined that she had experienced at least two seizures in the jail. However, instead of checking on her every 15 minutes as is mandated, Rikers staff left her alone for 35, 41 and 57 minutes during the last hours of her life, according to a report from the board.