Seventeen Correctional Department officers will be disciplined after the death of a transgender woman on Rikers Island, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
Layleen Polanco, 27, died last year after experiencing an epileptic seizure in solitary confinement.
In a statement, de Blasio said Friday that four officers, including a captain, faced immediate suspension without pay. The disciplinary action faced by the other 13 uniformed employees was not stipulated.
“The death of Layleen Polanco was an incredibly painful moment for our city,” said de Blasio. “What happened to Layleen was absolutely unacceptable and responsibility is essential.”
Polanco’s family says new surveillance footage released in recent weeks shows that the guards failed to provide him with life-saving medical care, according to NBC News. Earlier this month, the New York City Department of Investigation and the Bronx district attorney released findings that said they found no evidence to support the criminal charges in her death.
The disciplinary action comes after the release of an investigative report from the Board of Corrections on Tuesday that cited multiple flaws that compromised his safety and contributed to his death. The board found that staff did not make rounds every 15 minutes and verified Polanco as required by Department of Correction policy, leaving her unchecked for periods of 40 minutes or more, and in one case, nearly an hour.
The board also found flaws in maintaining accurate and complete log books and flaws in the exchange of records.
Polanco had been charged with six misdemeanors in April 2019 and was held on $ 501 bail until her death on June 7. She spent three days at Bellevue Hospital, where she was prescribed an anticonvulsant medication, before being taken to Rikers Island. She had two attacks after arriving in jail before being sentenced to 20 days in solitary confinement for fighting with other inmates.
Protesting deaths: Two black transgender women were killed last week, thousands showed up to protest
In its report, the board also considered that the process to identify people who should be excluded from isolation due to mental or medical problems was insufficient.
David Shanies, a lawyer for the Polanco family, said that while discipline was welcome, what is really needed is institutional responsibility.
“Suspending or even firing individual employees will not prevent the next Layleen from dying,” he said in a statement. “We need to treat trans women like women. We need to end the abusive and solitary confinement. We need to treat people in prison as humans who deserve security and dignity. “
Polanco’s death was one of several that sparked outrage and protests in recent weeks.
On June 14, thousands stood in front of the Brooklyn Museum in New York, dressed in white and spreading the Black Trans Lives Matter message. The Brooklyn protest, organized by the Okra Project and the Marsha P Johnson Institute, also honored the deaths of Riah Milton, 25, and Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, 27. Their deaths were the latest in what advocacy groups have called an epidemic. transgender people, especially black trans women.
Associated Press contributed to this report.