Death at Cuyahoga County Jail, Second in Two Months, Was Trans Woman Lea Daye


Rally for Justice for Incarcerated Individuals, Cuyahoga County Justice Center, (5/29/20). - SAM ALLARD / SCENE
  • Sam Allard / Scene
  • Rally for Justice for Incarcerated Individuals, Cuyahoga County Justice Center, (5/29/20).

The second death at the Cuyahoga County Jail in as many months was a black 28-year-old trans woman named Lea Rayshon Daye. She was found unresponsive by jail guards very early Sunday morning and had been in custody, according to county court records, since May 17, when she was arrested and jailed on robbery and assault charges. The cause of death has not yet been released.

Daye is the second person to die at the facility this summer, after more than a year of no reported deaths. That spell of inmate survival followed a nearly yearlong span in 2018 and 2019 in which nine people died, eight by suicide or drug overdose.'s Adam Ferrise, who has covered the county jail scandal and its aftermath in rigorous detail, reported this week that after attempts by officials early in the coronavirus pandemic to drastically reduce the jail's population, the numbers have spiked once again. The jail had been at its lowest population level ever, 950, in March, but has now risen to more than 1,500. In the past month alone, the population has increased by 300.

The increased population has ripple effects. The amount of jail guards becomes insufficient, and inmates are locked down for hours at a time, a process called "red-zoning," which in turn limits their access to medical care. 

The cause of Lea Daye's death is under investigation by the county medical examiner. But local nonprofits are decrying it regardless, hoping to call attention to the persistence of danger and inhumanity at the county jail and the particular plight of trans people in state custody.

“Transgender people are being murdered across the United States, and the City of Cleveland has one of the highest rates based on our population,” said Maya Simek from Equality Ohio, in a statement provided to the media. “The system that continues to fail Black, brown and LGBTQ+ Ohioans is completely inept when interacting with those at the intersection of race and LGBTQ+ identity.”

Eliana Turan, the Director of Development at the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland who wrote an op-ed for Scene last month about the murders of trans people in Cleveland, noted a direct correlation between recent racial justice demonstrations and increased public awareness about violence against trans people.

“The time we are living in is creating a spark that's causing people to see the murders of our trans neighbors as a major problem,” she said.

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