AVP Demands Sweeping Changes to NYC Jail Systems, Closure of Rikers, and for Permanent End to Solitary Confinement 

Contact: Audacia Ray, New York City Anti-Violence Project, aray@avp.org

Esais Johnson, a young gay Black man with autism, died at Rikers Island last week after he languished a month in the jail. The Department of Corrections failed to deliver him to three separate court hearings, preventing him from paying his $1 bail. Johnson is the tenth person in Department of Corrections custody that has died in the jail system since December 2020, a huge spike over the previous two years, according to the Daily News

AVP’s Executive Director, Beverly Tillery stated, “Rikers is a death trap. We have been sounding the alarm about the dangers at Rikers for several years now but despite pledges to close the facility, City officials continue to drag their feet, leaving thousands of New Yorkers in peril. Esais Johnson and Layleen Polanco should have been released on bail, but instead were left to languish at Rikers for weeks with no end in sight. LGBTQ people, especially those who are transgender, gender nonconforming, non-binary, and people of color, face severe criminalization and violence from police, and then when incarcerated, experience homophobic or transphobic violence from other incarcerated people and/or guards. We appreciate the legislators who demanded to tour Rikers this week and exposed the extent of the horrific conditions. Now, we need swift and definitive action to protect those we have put in grave danger.”

The New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP) stands with LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors of state violence and the loved ones of those who have died due to confinement in city jails, including deaths caused by self-harm and/or suicide. As New York City’s leading LGBTQ anti-violence organization, AVP demands that the City expedite the plan to close Rikers. Unsafe, overcrowded, and unsanitary conditions at Rikers are at crisis levels, as the jail population has doubled since July 2020. The Chief Medical Officer at the complex recently stated that he does “not believe the City is capable of safely managing the custody of those it is charged with incarcerating in its jails,” as reported by NY1

In this chaos, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary people and people affected by HIV are especially vulnerable. In addition to elevated rates of violence from other incarcerated people and guards, our community’s basic human needs are not being met.  Elected officials touring the facility have reported seeing a transgender woman placed in “male” facilities, without appropriate medical care, including hormone treatment, and incarcerated people living with HIV deprived of life-saving medication.  

AVP joins the New York Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (NYC AIC) and the Jails Action Coalition to call for a permanent end to solitary confinement. Conditions are even more dangerous in the City’s restrictive housing units and solitary confinement cells, whose solid cell doors make ventilation extremely difficult and make it harder for staff to see if someone is in medical duress.  AVP has been calling for the end of solitary since the death of Layleen Polanco in 2019, an Afro-Latinx trans woman who died after not receiving needed medical intervention in the City’s punitive segregation system which is commonly known as solitary confinement. In addition, AVP asserts that “protective custody” is in fact isolative punishment and not a way to keep LGBTQ people safe in jails and prisons. While there is currently legislation in the City Council aimed at ending this practice, the Council has not made the necessary amendments or progressed this bill. As the legislation stalls, many New Yorkers remain subjected to isolative torture in city jails. The practice of isolation as punishment needs to be ended immediately.

 

The Work Continues: Demands for NYC Mayor and NYPD

Trigger Warning: mentions of fatal police violence

Many of us breathed a sigh of relief Tuesday when Derek Chauvin was convicted of all charges for the killing of Goerge Floyd. For some of us, the verdict comes with the hope that perhaps this signals a move forward in our collective work to hold law enforcement accountable for the deadly violence they perpetrate against Black and brown people. But even with our relief, we know there is so much more work to do to fully address and end police violence.

Tuesday, a ProPublica article revealed that after an internal investigation, the NYPD found “no wrongdoing” in the killing of Kawaski Trawick, a 32-year-old queer Black man who was shot and killed by NYPD in his own home on April 14th, 2019. On that day, Kawaski had likely experienced a mental health crisis after being locked out of his apartment. Police arrived on the scene after Kawaski had already been assisted by firefighters, and had safely and quietly returned to his apartment, where he was cooking. Instead of realizing there was no longer a disturbance or threat, police officers Brendan Thompson and Herbert Davis broke the chain to Kawaski’s front door, and after finding him at his stove with a knife, tased, then shot and killed Kawski–all within 112 seconds of their arrival on the scene. For two years, there has been no accountability for Kawaski’s shooting from the NYPD. Neither of the officers have been disciplined, and the Bronx District Attorney has refused to prosecute.

Even as we breathe a brief sigh of relief after the verdict in the murder of George Floyd, we continue demanding accountability for Kawaski Trawick and all of the other victims of deadly police violence in our city and across the country. As an organization that centers LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities and aims to end all forms of violence and as a member of Communities United for Police Reform, we stand with our partners and Kawaski’s family in calling on the Civilian Complaint Review Board to hold a disciplinary trial. We demand accountability from Mayor DeBlasio and the firing of the officers involved in Kawaski’s shooting. AVP and our partners will not stop on until we are all safe and free.

NCAVP mourns the death of Courtney “Eshay” Key, a 25-year-old Black transgender woman in Chicago, IL

NCAVP mourns the death of Courtney “Eshay” Key, a 25-year-old Black transgender woman in Chicago, IL, who was fatally shot in the late hours of December 25. Friends and family of Courtney believe the death was a hate violence.

Friends and family of Courtney have only discussed her loss with one news outlet, stating that she was “the life of the party – hilarious and determined.” Her lifelong friend Beverly Ross called out the Chicago Police Department for deadnaming and misgendering Courtney, stating ““We are human. We are real … we’re tired of Chicago police misgendering trans people.” “She wanted to be something … she wanted to beat the odds,” says Beverly.

Brave Space Alliance, a Black-led, trans-led LGBTQ Community Center has also spoken out on the death of Courtney, commenting on the insulting and demeaning nature of deadnaming and misgendering trans folk: “We become disposable because there’s a lot of us [who] are in need of help. [We] think you’re telling us we’re worthless, that we’re not worthy of living life, because of the way we’re misgendered. This is a continual thing.” The org is also helping Courtney’s family with funeral costs.

NCAVP stands in solidarity with Black trans women, and we know that it is always hard to read these reports of violence against our communities. We know this can be even more painful when there continues to be an unchecked epidemic of homicides of Black trans women, as police violence is escalating against Black and brown people, and our nation continues to be grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic that highlights long standing healthcare disparities for Black and brown communities. If you need support in these difficult times, you can always reach out to your local NCAVP member. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, you can reach our free bilingual national hotline at 212-714-1141 or report online for support.

NCAVP works to prevent, respond to, and end all forms of violence against and within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and HIV-affected communities. NCAVP is a national coalition of local member programs and affiliate organizations who create systemic and social change. NCAVP is a program of the New York City Anti-Violence Project.

NCAVP mourns the death of Jaheim “Barbie” Pugh, a 19-year-old Black gender non-conforming person in Prichard, AL

NCAVP mourns the death of Jaheim Pugh, also known as Bella Pugh and Jaheim Barbie, a 19-year-old Black gender non-conforming person in Prichard, AL. Jaheim was fatally shot on December 13.

Bella, according to friends and family, went by both he/him and she/her pronouns. Their Facebook page is flooded with support and grievances from friends and family, including folks sharing their own selfies noting Jaheim Barbie gave them the confidence to wear certain outfits, or live their best life. Parties are being hosted in her honor, and the hashtags #LLJaheim (Long Live Jaheim), #JusticeforJaheim, and #JaheimMattered frequently appear on her Facebook. Messages include “We love you Jaheim Pugh nothing will ever change that,” and “going into a year without you is nothing I’m gonna ever get use to.” According to Bella’s family, Bella was a fan of Nicki Minaj, and wanted to travel the world.

Jaheim’s family demands justice for their passing, emphasizing the fact that the attack was a hate crime – their mother says Jaheim was killed for wearing a rainbow jumpsuit, telling a local news outlet “They took somebody special because he wore a dress.” Jaheim’s family was very supportive of their gender expression, stating “I loved him with everything in me … that’s why he could shine like he did. Everything I had I poured into Jaheim.”

A suspect has turned themselves into the police, and is currently being charged for the crime.

NCAVP works to prevent, respond to, and end all forms of violence against and within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and HIV-affected communities. NCAVP is a national coalition of local member programs and affiliate organizations who create systemic and social change. NCAVP is a program of the New York City Anti-Violence Project.

NCAVP mourns the death of Chae’Meshia Simms, a 30-year-old Black transgender woman in Richmond, VA

NCAVP mourns the death of Chae’Meshia Simms a 30-year old Black transgender woman found dead in her car in Richmond, VA on November 23. Simms was suffering from a gunshot wound, and collided into a garage in an alley when authorities discovered her body. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Friends and family have been mourning Chae’Meshia’s death on social media. Her latest profile picture has been shared over a dozen times, with messages of grief and memories – “you will be truly missed” writes one. “Rest Up Baby ” writes another. Chae’Meshia’s father is publicly demanding justice for her death, telling one publication: “I ask [whoever did it] to turn yourself in … we’re never going to stop looking.” On ChaeMeshia’s disposition, he says she was a “well-loved individual” who was “always caring for others.”

Richmond police ask anyone with information about Simms’ death to call Major Crimes Detective M. Godwin at 804-646-5533 or Crime Stoppers at 804-780-1000.

NCAVP stands in solidarity with Black trans women, and we know that it is always hard to read these reports of violence against our communities. We know this can be even more painful when there continues to be an unchecked epidemic of homicides of Black trans women, as police violence is escalating against Black and brown people, and our nation continues to be grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic that highlights long standing healthcare disparities for Black and brown communities. If you need support in these difficult times, you can always reach out to your local NCAVP member. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, you can reach our free bilingual national hotline at 212-714-1141 or report online for support.

NCAVP works to prevent, respond to, and end all forms of violence against and within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and HIV-affected communities. NCAVP is a national coalition of local member programs and affiliate organizations who create systemic and social change. NCAVP is a program of the New York City Anti-Violence Project.

NCAVP mourns the death of Skylar Heath, a 20-year-old Black transgender woman in Miami, FL

NCAVP mourns the death of Skylar Heath, a 20-year-old Black transgender woman who died on November 4 in Miami, FL. Her death is currently being investigated as a homicide.

In Skylar’s obituary, which unfortunately misgenders and deadnames her, she is described as “kind and gentle soul” with a “friendly spirit.” Skylar was born and raised in Miami, and raised by her grandmother and great grandmother.

Friends of Skylar report that the cause of her death was a shooting – local police ask that anyone with information contact Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers by calling (305) 471-TIPS (8477)

NCAVP stands in solidarity with Black trans women, and we know that it is always hard to read these reports of violence against our communities. We know this can be even more painful when there continues to be an unchecked epidemic of homicides of Black trans women, as police violence is escalating against Black and brown people, and our nation continues to be grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic that highlights long standing healthcare disparities for Black and brown communities. If you need support in these difficult times, you can always reach out to your local NCAVP member. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, you can reach our free bilingual national hotline at 212-714-1141 or report online for support.

NCAVP works to prevent, respond to, and end all forms of violence against and within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and HIV-affected communities. NCAVP is a national coalition of local member programs and affiliate organizations who create systemic and social change. NCAVP is a program of the New York City Anti-Violence Project.

NCAVP mourns the death of Lea Rayshon Daye, a 28-year-old Black transgender woman in Cleveland, OH

NCAVP mourns the death of Lea Rayshon Daye, a 28-year-old Black transgender woman who was found dead in Cuyahoga County Jail in Cleveland, OH on August 30.

Cuyahoga County Jail, where Lea had been held for 105 days, has a longstanding history of neglect, reporting ten wrongful deaths since 2018. Lea’s autopsy and cause of death has still not been released to her family or community.

Local activists are demanding justice for Lea – calling attention to the misgendering that happened in the reports surrounding her death. “Those that knew her said she would have hated that.” Others are drawing attention to Cuyahoga’s history, and the oppressiveness of the prisons in general. “Even the cleanest and most well-staffed jail in the world is still a predatory and abusive institution,” says Chrissy Stonebraker-Martinez from the Cuyahoga County Jail Coalition.


NCAVP stands in solidarity with Black trans women, and we know that it is always hard to read these reports of violence against our communities. We know this can be even more painful when there continues to be an unchecked epidemic of homicides of Black trans women, as police violence is escalating against Black and brown people, and our nation continues to be grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic that highlights long standing healthcare disparities for Black and brown communities. If you need support in these difficult times, you can always reach out to your local NCAVP member. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, you can reach our free bilingual national hotline at 212-714-1141 or report online for support.

NCAVP works to prevent, respond to, and end all forms of violence against and within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and HIV-affected communities. NCAVP is a national coalition of local member programs and affiliate organizations who create systemic and social change. NCAVP is a program of the New York City Anti-Violence Project.

NCAVP mourns the death of Yunieski “Yuni” Carey Herrera, a 39-year-old Latinx transgender woman in Miami, FL

NCAVP mourns the death of Yunieski “Yuni” Carey Herrera, a 39-year-old Latinx transgender woman who was fatally stabbed by her partner in Miami, FL on November 17. Her partner confessed the crime to authorities, and currently awaits trial – he admits to being under the influence of methamphetamines during the assault, and feels he “deserves the punishment that comes to him.”

Yuni was a well-known activist and performer, with worldwide acclaim as the winner of the Miss Trans Cuba beauty pageant, and later Miss Trans Global in 2019 in Barcelona. Several activists in the Miami area knew Yuni, describing her as “highly motivated,” and a “typical jovial and cheerful Cuban.” A local club owner, Alexis Fernández said Yuni was a performer who knew how to “captivate her audience.” Alexis owns the nightclub Azúcar, where Yuni was expected to make her return after an 8-month-leave due to the coronavirus pandemic. Alexis says the community loved Yuni.

“Besides being strikingly beautiful, she was kind and she was good and she cared as much about others as she would about herself … she was a very special person for many people,” says Yuni’s friend Raul Griffith.

Yuni’s death occurred just three days before the Trans Day of Remembrance.

NCAVP works to prevent, respond to, and end all forms of violence against and within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and HIV-affected communities. NCAVP is a national coalition of local member programs and affiliate organizations who create systemic and social change. NCAVP is a program of the New York City Anti-Violence Project.

NCAVP mourns the death of Asia Jynaé Foster, a 22-year-old Black transgender woman in Houston, TX

NCAVP mourns the death of Asia Jynaé Foster, a 22-year-old Black transgender woman who was fatally shot in Houston, TX on November 20. Unfortunately, Asia’s death coincides with Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Asia was a client of the Montrose Center, a drop-in shelter for LGBTQ youth. On Sunday November 22, the center held a vigil in Asia’s honor. On social media, the org wrote: “Asia was outgoing, funny, and she could put together a read that left everyone around her scrambling to pick up their jaws. We’re saving a seat next to Tracy [another Montrose client lost to violence] for you Asia. We love you.” At the vigil, attendees said Asia was a “beacon of light in their community.” “This will never be forgotten. Asia will never be forgotten,” said another.

In response to Asia’s death, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee tweeted out her support and condolences. Additionally, she shared that she is “seeking to pass federal legislation to investigate this repetitive national violence against transgender women of color.”
Foster’s death remains under investigation. Police ask that anyone with information call Crime Stoppers at (713) 222-TIPS (8477).


NCAVP stands in solidarity with Black trans women, and we know that it is always hard to read these reports of violence against our communities. We know this can be even more painful when there continues to be an unchecked epidemic of homicides of Black trans women, as police violence is escalating against Black and brown people, and our nation continues to be grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic that highlights long standing healthcare disparities for Black and brown communities. If you need support in these difficult times, you can always reach out to your local NCAVP member. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, you can reach our free bilingual national hotline at 212-714-1141 or report online for support.

NCAVP works to prevent, respond to, and end all forms of violence against and within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and HIV-affected communities. NCAVP is a national coalition of local member programs and affiliate organizations who create systemic and social change. NCAVP is a program of the New York City Anti-Violence Project.

NCAVP mourns the death of Angel Haynes, a 25-year-old Black transgender woman in Memphis, TN

NCAVP mourns the death of Angel Haynes, a 25-year-old Black transgender woman who was fatally shot in a motel in Memphis, Tennessee on October 25. Angel was en route from her hometown of Jackson, TN to visit her best friend Takia Weddle and promised to call her when she arrived in Memphis safely. Takia never heard from Angel – instead, police were called to the Motel 6 in the early morning, where Angel was pronounced dead on scene.

Takia held a vigil in Angel’s honor the following weekend. “I still can’t believe it really because that was the only person I was with every single day. I talked to my best friend more than I talked to my boyfriend,” Takia told a local news station. Angel was a cosmetologist, who was to celebrate her 26th birthday in December. Takia believes Angel was targeted because she is transgender – “in that side of Memphis … Whitehaven, they really don’t like people like that over there really,” “Everybody that knew Angel knew that she was very funny. Very nice to everybody she met,” says Takia.

A GoFundMe has been set up for Angel to cover funeral expenses. The fundraiser reads “Angel was a carefree, caring, determined, funny, smart and giving woman. Unfortunately, our time with her was cut very very short. She was MURDERED!! She was taken away from her mom, grandmother, uncle…she was taken away from all of us unexpectedly.”

Angel’s death marks the 7th transgender woman lost to gun violence in just the last 2 months. Other victims include Sara Blackwood, Mia Green, Brooklyn DeShauna Smith, Felycya Harris, Michellyn Ramos Vargas, and Aerrion Burnett.

Police have asked anyone with information regarding a suspect to contact them at 901-528-CASH.

NCAVP stands in solidarity with Black trans women, and we know that it is always hard to read these reports of violence against our communities. We know this can be even more painful when there continues to be an unchecked epidemic of homicides of Black trans women, as police violence is escalating against Black and brown people, and our nation continues to be grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic that highlights long standing healthcare disparities for Black and brown communities. If you need support in these difficult times, you can always reach out to your local NCAVP member. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, you can reach our free bilingual national hotline at 212-714-1141 or report online for support.

NCAVP works to prevent, respond to, and end all forms of violence against and within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and HIV-affected communities. NCAVP is a national coalition of local member programs and affiliate organizations who create systemic and social change. NCAVP is a program of the New York City Anti-Violence Project.