A new report calls for the Texas jail that 28-year-old Sandra Bland died in last summer, to be shut down and a new facility with more space be rebuilt to take its place.
According to Houston NBC affiliate KPRC, an advisory board consisted of defense attorneys and a former Congressman reviewed Waller Country Jail, where Bland was found hanging with a trash bag tied around her neck, and concluded that the facility needs major changes if it plans to be more affective for the community.
One panel member, former U.S. Rep. Craig Washington said anyone entering the jail was “entitled to be treated with dignity and respect as a human being” and that wasn’t happening given the limiting space of the jail right now. “The jail is not adequate, in our judgment,” he admitted.
KPRC reported that other changes focused on mental health of the inmates and jail officials’ behavior, tempers and treatment of inmates:
- Screening inmates for mental health issues during intake and more emergency medical technicians to access emergencies on site.
- Making it mandatory for officers to wear body cameras to protect both parties involved.
- Investing in technology for an electronic booking process to facilitate access to information on inmates.
- Separating the jail administration and the policing duties as much as possible.
- Anger management training for jail officials and a ban of defamatory and demeaning used toward inmates.
“These are strong recommendations that are really on the cutting edge,” committee member Juan L. Guerra said at a press conference Tuesday at the Waller County Courthouse in Hempstead, Texas.
Current Sheriff Glenn Smith said that he agrees with the recommendations and that they have already ordered body cameras and are enrolling staff into anger management trainings. “I’m open, willing to listen, and while we may not all agree on everything … we’re going to move forward,” Smith said. “We’re going to make a difference.”
Not everyone is confident about this promised change and massive improvements.
Protestors at the press conference made it clear that they believed the report was just a “window dressing” for Bland’s death and wondered why the commission didn’t interview past and current inmates before creating their recommendations, KPRC noted.
In the end, the Bland’s family lawyer Cannon Lamber, who had not seen the report, told ABC News that “it shouldn’t take somebody dying to be self-reflective…[but] it may be a legacy that Sandy leaves that through her death, advances are made.”