Texas Senate passes Sandra Bland Act, addresses jail employees’ treatment of emotionally distressed inmates
To help remedy the circumstances that led to Sandra Bland’s death in a Texas jail, the state Senate unanimously passed a bill commonly referred to as the Sandra Bland Act.
In 2015, Bland was pulled over by a police officer in Waller County and taken forcefully taken into custody. After three days in jail, officials claimed she was found dead, hanging in her jail cell. Despite her death being ruled a suicide, doubts were raised among a public that speculated otherwise.
The bill is a far cry from the state accepting direct responsibility for Bland’s death, but it does suggest lawmakers are aware things could’ve been handled much better. For example, the bill, which was 55 pages long, proposes multiple reforms to how jail employees deal with inmates displaying signs of mental and emotional distress, according to KHOU.
“If you don’t remember one other word that I speak,” said Senator John Whitmire. “I want you to remember this, when you deny someone their liberty, you have a responsibility to provide for the safety and welfare of that person.”
Whitmire told the Senate that 26 people committed suicide inside Texas county jails last year. This number has reportedly dropped to 16 this year but Whitmire believes things much more can be done to solve this issue, including giving officers and jailers more training in mental health and de-escalation practices.
“The idea that it actually has passed out of one house means that it will have an impact because it will give people encouragement, and that’s the big impact,” said Representative Garnet Coleman. “Encouragement to try to continue to make change.”