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Did Jail Procedures Fail Sandra Bland?

Ryan E. Poppe
Brandon Woods, Executive Director of the Texas Commission for Jail Standards



The arrest, jailing and death of Sandra Bland has left a trail of questions about law enforcement’s handling of her case. 


It started with her arrest by a DPS trooper captured on videotape as he threatened Bland. Rep. Garnet Coleman is a Houston Democrat who chairs a House committee investigating the Bland case. 


“And the trooper clearly was the catalyst for the woman going to jail, so they’re really two separate things, but you have to fix one before you fix the other,” Coleman said outside of the committee hearing.


Credit Ryan E. Poppe
House County Affairs Committee Chair Garnet Coleman

  Coleman says understanding and promptly fixing problems with arrest procedures is important because the state is poised to hire over 100 more DPS troopers in the coming year.  Coleman has concerns  about whether troopers undergo enough sensitivity training before beginning their jobs. 


Coleman as well as other legislators are also concerned about the practices at jails like the one in Waller County where Bland died.  Are jailers taking the proper actions when an inmates mentions suicide?  30-percent of all jail deaths result from suicide..


Brandon Wood, the Executive Director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards says county jailers need more training and are not mental health experts.


Woods told the committee, “If someone was masking their symptoms, as far as someone being in crisis, that would be very difficult to discern and you would probably have to rely on an actual medical professional to make that determination.”


Bland told jailers in Waller County she had tried to kill herself earlier that year before she was put in a cell by herself in Waller County.


Coleman says the committee will continue to meet to look at information in the Bland case, and to consider new arrest and jail standards that could prevent another prisoner death.