Transgender inmate found dead in Rikers Island jail cell

A cause of death has not been determined, but the Department of Correction said it was not the result of violence.
Image: Riker's Island jail
An aerial view of Riker's Island jail on June 20, 2014.Seth Wenig / AP file
By Janelle Griffith

A transgender inmate was found dead in a jail cell Friday afternoon on New York's Rikers Island, according to the city Department of Correction.

Layleen Polanco was found unresponsive at about 2:40 p.m. Friday by an officer conducting a tour of a housing area at the Rose M. Singer Center, the jail that houses female inmates.

Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.

DOC custodial staff performed CPR on her until medical staff arrived at approximately 2:51 p.m. Medics tried to revive her for about an hour before she was declared dead, according to the DOC. She was 27.

"We are heartbroken over the death of our beloved Layleen, whose bright light was an inspiration to all who knew her," her family said in a statement Sunday, adding that the city "failed to protect Layleen."

"The family demands answers and we are entitled to them," the statement said.

A cause of death has not been determined, but the DOC said it was not the result of violence.

“This is a tragic loss and we extend our deepest condolences to her family," Correction Commissioner Cynthia Brann said. "We are conducting a full investigation as the safety and well-being of people in our custody is our top priority.”

New York City announced last year plans to close the troubled prison by 2026, spurred in part by incidents such as the high profile death of Kalief Browder, a former inmate who killed himself after years of harsh treatment on Rikers.