Texas county where incarcerated woman died cited by jail monitor

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 30, 2015 5:50 PM

By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - The Texas county where a black woman died in an apparent jail suicide that garnered national attention had been cited by a state monitor for not doing enough to keep an eye on inmates and properly filling out intake forms, an official said on Thursday.

Sandra Bland was found hanged in her cell three days after her July 10 arrest for a minor traffic offense in Waller County, about 50 miles northwest of Houston, an incident activists say is another example of police brutality toward minorities.

Brandon Wood, the executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, told a Texas House of Representatives Committee that the county had not done enough to fill out mental health forms required by the state and monitoring those it kept behind bars.

"We did issue a notice of noncompliance for those two items," Wood said.

"The county, any county, has to make sure that they are doing that screening properly. They have to ensure that they are doing their observation checks," he said.

He said about 1 million people a year end up in Texas county jails and there were 22 suicides among those taken into custody in the state in 2014, he said.

Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith said Bland had told jailers in a questionnaire that she had previously tried to commit suicide.

The chairman of the County Affairs Committee, Representative Garnet Coleman, a Democrat, blamed the trooper who arrested Bland for setting up the circumstances that led to her death.

"How does someone get pulled over for not signaling and end up dead in three days. It just doesn't compute," he said.

Bland was pulled over by white Texas state trooper Brian Encinia near Prairie View for failing to signal a lane change.

The stop escalated into a verbal altercation after Encinia asked Bland to put out a cigarette and she refused. Bland was arrested and charged with assaulting an officer, a felony.

Bland was found hanging in her jail cell three days later, with a plastic trash bag around her neck.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Sandra Maler)