Sandra Bland's death may bring new screenings in Texas jails

AUSTIN, Texas - The House Committee on County Affairs called for a hearing Thursday to get answers surrounding the arrest and death of Sandra Bland.

"It broke my heart to hear (about) Sandra Bland," said Janet Baker.

Janet Baker testified and said she feels a strong connection to the case because a Houston police officer killed her son Jordan Baker last January.

"To hear her mom say that they took a road trip together and I just remember the last phone call that I had with Jordan and I replay it over and over again. I didn't know it would be the last conversation we'd have," said Janet Baker.

A grand jury cleared the officer in Jordan Baker's case.

Janet Baker was one of several community members who spoke in front of the committee asking for change in our law enforcement and in our jail system.

"We know from her case, if you can make changes that would impact other people, where you won't have something like this happen again no matter what it was, that's a plus," said Yannis Banks with NAACP Texas.

State Representative Garnet Coleman from Houston called the hearing, which at times became heated.

DPS Director Steve McCraw said his department will do a thorough investigation and agreed the trooper who arrested Bland violated policy.

"He clearly was rude and he had an opportunity to deescalate it, instead he escalated it," said McCraw.

Brandon Wood with The Texas Commission on Jail Standards also testified saying jails need help identifying inmates with mental illnesses.

"Counties need to be doing better and the state as a whole can possibly review to see if they can step up in certain areas such as additional funding for mental health," said Wood.

As for Baker, she wanted officers to be held accountable for their actions. She's hopeful something will be done.

"My faith tells me that yes there will be a change, there has to be," said Baker.

Officials recommended revising the mental health assessment in jails and adding trainingĀ for jailers to detect someone in crisis.

Committee members invited officials from Waller County, but none could make it to the hearing.

Texas Commission on Jail Standards Director Brandon Wood said that a major challenge for jailers is dealing with inmates with a history of mental health issues who don't appear to be in immediate crisis.

Wood testified to Texas lawmakers who are reviewing jail and police standards.

Bland was found dead in a Waller County jail July 13th, three days after she was arrested during a traffic stop. Authorities say she hanged herself, a finding her family has questioned.

Bland indicated on a booking questionnaire that she previously attempted suicide.

Officials say Waller County jailers didn't get additional mental health training they were supposed to receive.

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