Wrongful Death Settlement Could Lead to Widespread Jail Reform
September 16, 2016 | Finz & Finz, P.C.
When Sandra Bland was arrested and found dead as the result of a suicide in her Texas jail cell last summer, questions arose on why the 28-year-old was taken into custody and why she was not monitored more closely. There were no criminal indictments for Bland’s death, but this week her family reached a settlement for $1.9 million in a wrongful death lawsuit that will also bring procedural changes to the jail in Waller County, located just northwest of Houston.
In July 2015, police dash cam video showed the encounter Bland had with a Texas State Trooper leading to her arrest. The African-American woman was pulled over for an illegal lane change near the university she was employed at, and was told by the white officer to extinguish the cigarette she was smoking in her vehicle. When she refused, Bland was told to step out of her car, which is when the situation escalated. She was heard repeatedly asking the officer why she was being arrested and yelling that her head had been pushed to the ground.
While the nation was outraged at another case of possible police brutality and Bland’s arrest for assaulting a public servant, tensions rose even higher when she was found hanging in her cell at the Waller County Jail three days after her arrest. As part of the booking process at the jail, Bland admitted to previously trying to commit suicide. She had also mentioned to officials at the jail that she was very upset about her arrest, which she was being held on $5,000 bail.
Questions remained on how long Bland was left alone in her cell with no one checking on her, and why she was not being monitored after the information corrections officers were provided. As part of the $1.9 million settlement, the county will put new jail procedures into place including:
- Automated electronic sensors to ensure cells are checked on a regular basis
- Around the clock staffing of an on-site nurse or medical professional
- Continued education for staff in regards to screening during intake and booking
Sandra Bland’s mother acknowledged the significance of having the reforms put into place as a result of the lawsuit, saying, “It was never just about Sandy. It was about all mothers who have lost their children unjustly to police brutality.” Despite the large monetary settlement and the agreement by the county to institute changes at the jail, the defendants in the lawsuit continue to deny any fault or wrongdoing in Sandra’s death.
As Sandra Bland’s family will attest, legal action in a civil rights case is not just about financial compensation. It is also to bring about systemic changes to a flawed system. If you or someone you love has been the victim of a civil rights violations, you need an attorney who will stand with you in taking on the government officials who acted outside the parameters of the law. Please call the knowledgeable and skilled lawyers at Finz & Finz, P.C. today.
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