As prepared for delivery




JUNE 11, 2019




•            Good morning. It is on this solemn occasion that I am here to address the Board and the public regarding two recent deaths in our facility. The first was of a young transgender woman, Layleen Polanco, and the second was of an older man who passed away in the ICU of Bellevue Hospital while under doctor’s care.


•            I would like to extend my deepest condolences to both of their families and loved ones during this difficult time. We take such matters extremely seriously and investigations into both incidents are ongoing.  We are committed to providing the Board with updates as additional details emerge and I appreciate the Board’s understanding that there is not much that can be said with specificity about either case at this time.


•            Given the tragic nature of these events, the Department understands the need for prompt answers, especially in the case of Layleen Polanco, who was 27 years old.


•            It is the human condition to fill in the blanks when we are seeking answers, particularly in the loss of a loved one. I’ve done it myself, and at a time when information is immediately available at our fingertips, it is particularly hard to wait for a determination as to the cause of death.


•            It is painful and frustrating for her family and friends. I assure you all parties are working quickly and diligently to investigate, analyze, and determine the manner of this tragic death.  Layleen’s family rightfully deserves answers and I hope that they find some comfort in the Chief Medical Examiner’s public statement that trauma did not contribute to her untimely death.


•            The Department remains committed to providing Ms. Polanco’s loved ones with answers as soon as they become available; this is still under investigation but so far there is no evidence of violence or foul play.


•            The safety of those entrusted to the Department’s custody remains my number one priority. That includes providing every person in our custody with a safe and appropriate housing assignment.


•            The Department of Correction is a national leader in transgender housing practices and remains committed to housing individuals in our care by gender identity. Our transgender housing unit is located in the female facility, and a transgender individual may reside in the THU, a GP unit at Rosie’s – our female facility - or she may elect to reside in a male facility,  or in certain circumstances, may be placed in a male facility for security purposes.


•            We are proud of the work we have done to get here. We remain committed to working with advocates and members of the community to ensure that our policies provide safe, fair, and respectful treatment of our transgender population.


•            In the case of Ms. Polanco, she was initially admitted to Rosie’s and remained housed there with other females for the duration of her time in custody.


•            As the investigation continues, we are committed to treating Ms. Polanco’s memory, and her family, with respect. Once again, we will share more information with the Board, the public, and her family, as we receive it.


•            Thank you for the opportunity to speak this morning.