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Posts Tagged ‘Death of Sandra Bland’

Police Misconduct Lawyer Plano, Texas – The Sandra Bland Act is Now Law, and County Jails Prepare for New Rules

Monday, June 19th, 2017

English: The Waller County Courthouse located ...

English: The Waller County Courthouse located at 29.5816° -95.7617°, Hempstead, Texas, United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Thursday, June 15, 2017, a law requiring county jails to provide inmates who may have mental health problems with treatment was signed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott. The legislation is known as the Sandra Bland Act. It was named after a 28-year-old woman who was famously pulled over in Waller County for an alleged minor traffic violation, and the police officer’s dash cam captured a controversial exchange between them. They ended up in an off-camera scuffle. She was arrested for alleged assault of a police officer. Bland was discovered hanging in her jail cell three days later. Her death was ruled a suicide. After her death, it was found that she may have been suffering from various health issues, including depression.

The Senate version of the bill was sponsored by Democrat Senator John Whitmire and was written by Democrat Representative Garnet Coleman. According to Coleman, in the past year in Texas county jails, 26 people have committed suicide.

The problem of jail suicide deaths is addressed in the new law. Jail employees are required to be provided with more de-escalation and mental health training. Local sheriff’s departments are now required to inform a judge within 12 hours if an individual in their custody is possibly dealing with mental disability or a mental health issue of some kind. Previously, deputies had a 3-day period in which to provide the same type of notification. In addition to quickly notifying a judge, a mental health professional must examine the individual, who may possibly be moved to a mental health facility.

In Bell County, Texas, things are in motion to ensure that the jail staff has 24-7 access to a mental health expert, which may mean the use of a teleconference. Cpt. Byron Shelton of Bell County Jail said a county jail is not the place for people in mental health crisis.

Because of the Sandra Bland Act, counties have permission to develop new programs which will place people with mental illnesses into care facilities, including many homeless individuals, which is a much better solution than putting them behind bars.

–Guest Contributor

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Police Misconduct Attorney Houston – The Texas Senate Passes a Purportedly Weakened Sandra Bland Act

Monday, May 15th, 2017

English: The Waller County Courthouse located ...

English: The Waller County Courthouse located at 29.5816° -95.7617°, Hempstead, Texas, United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Thursday, May 11, 2017, the Sandra Bland Act was unanimously passed by Texas Senators. The bill addresses criminal justice reform issues related to the death of Sandra Bland, who was found dead, hanging in a Waller County, Texas, jail cell three days after an arrest resulting from a routine traffic stop. An investigation was done, and her death was declared a suicide. The bill is 55 pages long and details numerous reforms. The bill was composed by Democrat Representative Garnet Coleman of Houston, and the companion bill was filed in the senate by Democrat Senator John Whitmire of Houston. According to Whitmire, in 2015, 26 people died by apparent suicide in Texas county jails. Some reforms were put into place, and the number fell to 16 in 2016. Not enough is being done, Whitmire said.

Coleman said the big impact of this bill is that it can provide encouragement to continue trying to make meaningful change.

Law enforcement officers and jailers will be required to have more training in mental illness, if this bill also passes in the House and is ultimately signed by Governor Abbott, to become law. More about the bill follows:

  • It makes room for counties to provide programs so that mentally ill individuals and the homeless will have facilities instead of jails to go to.
  • It mandates that people with substance abuse and mental health issues be diverted by county jails toward treatment.
  • The bill makes it easier for defendants with an intellectual disability or with mental illness to receive a personal bond.
  • The bill requires that all jail deaths be investigated by independent law enforcement agencies.

Crucial sections of the bill have been removed, which Coleman expressed his disappointment about. Consent searches and pre-text stops were removed from the version of the bill that passed the Senate. He says other bill are specifically addressing those issues, however.

In this continuing series, learn about sections of the bill that were removed and the response from members of Bland’s family.

–Guest Contributor

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Attorney – Protesters Against Police Violence Express the Message Through Art in Houston, Texas

Saturday, April 29th, 2017

English: The Waller County Courthouse located ...

English: The Waller County Courthouse located at 29.5816° -95.7617°, Hempstead, Texas, United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At Art League Houston a multimedia art show called How Do I Say Her Name? is on display until May 6, 2017; it has been up since March 24. The work of nine Texas women is on exhibit in the display. The women are Ann Johnson, Monica Villarreal, Lovie Olivia, Kaneem Smith, Regina Agu, Lauren Kelley, Rabéa Ballin, Rosine Kouman, and Autumn Knight. The purpose of the exhibit is to raise awareness of alleged police brutality against women of color.

Ann Johnson’s artwork at the Art League was chiefly inspired by the story of Sandra Bland, which has gained worldwide attention and sparked widespread outrage. Twenty-eight-year-old Bland was pulled over by a police officer on the outskirts of Houston on July 10, 2015, for a routine traffic stop regarding failure to use a blinker before changing lanes. Following a controversial encounter with the officer, much of which was captured on a dashcam video shot from the patrol vehicle, she was arrested for assault. Bland was found hanged to death with a plastic garbage bag in her Waller County, Texas, jail cell three days later. The circumstances of her death are widely debated, with an investigation showing officers at the jail did no wrong and there was no foul play and family and friends of Bland saying there is no way she would kill herself. Another huge question in the minds of many is why she was arrested in the first place, calling into question the actions of the arresting officer, who was fired from his job.

Johnson said that after what happened to Sandra Bland, for the first time in her life, she was afraid when driving in Waller County. She frequently drove past the area on University Drive where Bland had her encounter with police and would rehearse repeatedly the importance of using her blinker to change lanes. She says she was so deeply affected by Bland’s story, she couldn’t say Bland’s name aloud for months. Friends encouraged her to use her creative abilities for activism against police brutality.

In this continuing series, learn more about specific concerns of police misconduct that are expressed by the women in this art exhibit.

–Guest Contributor

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