Death of Rikers Island Transgender Inmate Sparks Protest

A transgender woman was found dead in her Rikers Island cell just days before her sister says she was due to be released—now the family of Layleen Cubilette-Polanco is asking for answers.

“We don’t have much information on what happened to my sister […] We were notified yesterday that she was found dead in her cell with not much information,” Melinia Cubilette stated on GoFundMe. “We will make sure her story is heard after we find out what happened.”

The Department of Corrections (DOC) claims Layleen was found unresponsive June 7 and pronounced dead by medical staff after attempts to resuscitate her. They have not provided her cause of death, but say an investigation is underway.

Hundred protested in NYC to demand #JusticeForLayleen.

Layleen was reportedly being held in solitary confinement at Rikers on a $500 bail over a misdemeanor charge.

“In April, New York state passed a bail reform package that ends cash bail for low-level offenses,” the Anti-Violence Project said in a statement. “Had Polanco been arrested after January 2020…she would not have been held on bail.”

One in two Black transgender people has been to prison and at least 1/3 of trans inmates experience sexual violence.