Sandra Bland Act Receives Initial Approval in Texas House

AUSTIN — The Texas House on Friday gave tentative approval to the Sandra Bland Act.The bill, named after an African-American woman who reportedly committed suicide in a Waller County jail after a contentious arrest, was approved by a 139-0 vote. It passed the Senate last week and needs a final vote from the House, which will likely happen Saturday before being sent to Gov. Greg Abbott.Despite the unanimous vote, the road to passing the bill was marked with controversy. Bland’s family said the final version “missed the mark” by not addressing all the issues that led to her death. Bland was arrested after an argument with a state trooper during a routine traffic stop. But the bill mainly focuses on improving mental health standards in jails and mental health training for law enforcement officers. Counties would be required to develop ways to better serve inmates with mental health issues and to divert some to mental health treatment programs instead of keeping them in jail. Inmates could continue to receive prescribed medications and would have access to mental health professionals around the clock. Rural counties that don't have the money to have mental health professionals in-house would provide access to doctors via telemedicine, the practice of using technology to offer medical care remotely.The bill also calls for use-of-force reports that would record suicides, assaults, escapes and deaths in county jails.  Continue reading...

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