17 uniformed staff members at Rikers Island will face disciplinary action after a transgender woman died at the New York prison.
According to the New York Daily News, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said the employees will be punished for their connection to Layleen Polanco’s death while in custody.
Four of the 17 staff members have been suspended without pay so far while each of employees will be subject to an internal investigation by the Department of Correction. The other 13 staffers are expected to face administrative changes of failing to complete watch assignments. They also are accused of inefficient performance and false logbook entries.
“The death of Layleen Polanco was an incredibly painful moment for our city,” de Blasio stated. “What happened to Layleen was absolutely unacceptable and it is critical that there is accountability.”
Polanco died in June 2019 after suffering an epileptic seizure while in solitary confinement. Staff at Rikers are required to do wellness checks on prisoners every 15 minutes, however NBC News released surveillance footage showing an hour-long gap between check ins.
“We welcome news of discipline, but until we know the who, what, and how, there is no knowing how meaningful this announcement is,” Polanco family lawyer David Shanies stated. “If the mayor wants to take meaningful action, he should start by announcing that the City will implement the two dozen reforms urged by the Board of Correction in response to Layleen’s death.”
Correction Department Commissioner Cynthia Brann says she’s also committed to the investigations and hopes this sends a message to Rikers staff regarding accountability.
“We are committed to ensuring that all of our facilities are safe and humane,” she said. “Even one death in our custody is one too many, and this swift and fair determination on internal discipline makes clear that the safety and well-being of people in our custody remains our top priority.”
Photo: Layleen Polanco