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In June 2019, Layleen Polanco, a transgender woman awaiting trial at Rikers Island because she could not afford $500 bail, was found dead in her solitary confinement cell. After an investigation that took an extensive period of time and external pressure to complete, New York City’s Board of Correction found that Polanco died from an epileptic seizure, which corrections officers entirely missed due to their neglect and lack of properly timed monitoring checks. This prompted public outrage and a wave of protests surrounding not only Polanco’s death, but also the extreme levels of violence faced by trans women, especially those of color, both in and out of carceral settings. In response, the Board of Correction formed the LGBTQ+ Affairs Unit to facilitate programming for LGBTQ+ inmates in NYC jails and specifically provide gender-affirming support to transgender inmates, including housing those individuals in facilities consistent with their gender identity.

This post was originally published on the Cardozo Journal of Equal Rights and Social Justice website on December 1, 2023. The original post can be accessed via the Archived Link button above.