Texas Senate Passes ‘Weakened’ Sandra Bland Act


Sandra Bland

Sandra Bland

A Sandra Bland Act was introduced to the Texas Senate and there it was reduced from a criminal justice reform bill to one that focuses on mental health issues and county jail operations as opposed to the police dismissal of the rights of motorists and police brutality. However, the Texas Senate unanimously passed the bill this past Thursday.

On July 10, 2015, White Texas state trooper Brian Encinia pulled over Sandra Bland, a 28 year-old black woman, because she failed to signal when she switched lanes to move out of his way. Encinia then escalated the situation by ordering her to put out her cigarette, then forcefully removing her from the car and brutalizing her on the side of the road. Sandra Bland was charged with resisting arrest and then was found hanged to death in a Waller County, Texas, jail cell three days later.  Her death was ruled a suicide.

The “Sandra Bland Act” would require county jails to secure treatment for people with mental health and substance abuse issues and make it easier for defendants with a mental illness or intellectual disability to receive a personal bond. It also requires independent law enforcement agencies to investigate jail deaths.

Key provisions were struck from the original bill as a result of criticism from police groups that it would hamper law enforcement’s work by adding extra steps to legally secure a consent search.

“It’s a complete oversight of the root causes of why she was jailed in the first place,” said Sharon Cooper, Bland’s sister and family spokeswoman.

“It’s frustrating and gut-wrenching” she also told the Associated Press. “It painfully misses the mark for us.”

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