Texas Gov. Greg Abbot signed the Sandra Bland Act into law on Thursday, June 15th, following a handful of revisions that have essentially distanced the legislation from the incident that led to the death of the woman for whom it was named.
The new version of the law—which takes effect on September 1—mandates that county jails direct those dealing with mental health and substance abuse issues toward treatment, according to The Texas Tribune. The Tribune also reports the law will make it easier for defendants to receive bond if they have a mental illness or disability, while requiring independent law enforcement agencies to investigate jail deaths.
After the death of her daughter Sandra Bland (whose death was ruled a suicide, though validity remains a question on the minds of many), Geneva Reed-Veal made her way to Texas to testify before lawmakers the importance of changing the state’s policing policies.
“I need this bill to move forward so that it will prove to people who say that Texas is the most awful state to live in. And to me that’s true, because Texas is a place of pain for me,” said Read-Veel according to The Associated Press. “I don’t hate police. I hate the fact that we do not understand that this has been going on for too long by those who have been charged to serve and protect us.”
The Texas Commission on Jail Standards responded with a proposal to revise the inmate intake process “to better identify mental health issues.” State Rep. Garnet Coleman of Houston later introduced a bill named after Bland, which originally aimed to address “racial profiling at traffic stops, consent searches, and counseling for police officers who profiled drivers.” Bland’s family expressed discontent with the bill, citing an erasure of language and context of the day Sandra was pulled over.
“It’s a complete oversight of the root causes of why she was jailed in the first place,” Sharon Cooper, Bland’s sister told The Texas Tribune in May.
Sandra Bland Act author Garnet Coleman released a statement following the signing of the act.
“The Sandra Bland Act will prevent traffic stops from escalating by ensuring that all law enforcement officers receive de-escalation training for all situations as part of their basic training and continuing education,” Coleman said. “The Sandra Bland Act will also ensure that cell checks are properly done by providing funding for automated electronic sensors.”