The Texas Senate took steps and added amendments to the so-called “Sandra Bland Act,” to change much of the way it approaches criminal justice reform in Texas.
The bill is named after Sandra Bland, a woman involved in a nationally publicized police stop in 2015 in Prairie View, Texas, who later committed suicide in her jail cell. The bill in its new form still has several provisions directly stemming from the incident involving Bland and preventing any similar ones in the future.
In the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, Chairman John Whitmire (R-Houston) struck many of the provisions from the bill that dealt more specifically with initial traffic stops themselves and interactions at the scene between police officers and those stopped by them.
The bill now more explicitly focuses on how law enforcement officers and county jails will deal with mentally ill inmates under their supervision.
Some of the provisions under the law include mandating the private investigation of deaths in jails, diverting prisoners with mental disabilities or substance abuse problems towards treatment as opposed to incarceration, and providing a streamlined process for mentally ill people to receive certain grants when being brought to trial in Texas.
The bill now heads to the House, where it will be carried by State Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston). Coleman introduced the original version of the bill, and gave it the “Sandra Bland” nickname in the first place.
While both Coleman and the Bland family expressed discontent with the fact that much of the original content in the bill had been stripped, they still remain optimistic about the ability of the ability to pass the bill into law in the House, with it still bearing the Sandra Bland namesake.