Houston lawmaker introduces Sandra Bland Act

AUSTIN, Texas – Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, introduced an act Thursday he said is aimed at addressing issues that came to light after Sandra Bland’s death nearly two years ago.

Bland was found dead in her Waller County Jail cell in July 2015 after she was arrested during a traffic stop. An autopsy found that she committed suicide.

Bland’s family sued the county. The wrongful death civil suit was settled for $1.9 million.

As part of the settlement, the county’s jail is now required to have a nurse on duty at all times and install electronic sensors to make sure guards are checking on inmates.

Coleman’s legislation includes not only those provisions, but also rules that would require jailers to do a better job at evaluating an inmate for mental illness and ensuring their treatment is continued while in custody.

The act also includes an increase from 16 hours to 40 hours in the amount of training for law enforcement officers in dealing with people who suffer from mental illness.

The bill also seeks to revamp racial profiling laws in the state.

“It took us a long time to draft this piece of legislation,” Coleman said. “We wanted to get it right.”

Coleman said his bill also creates a grant program to help offset the increased costs for counties to implement the changes.

One police association has criticized the bill as misguided.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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