County Jails Under the Microscope Today for Policies Toward Mentally Ill

posted by Jim Forsyth - 

Last year, the Texas Legislature ordered the state's county jails to make major changes to deal with mentally ill inmates, following the suicide of a woman in the Waller County Jail near Houston in 2015, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Today, the State House County Affairs Committee will investigate how well they'e doing.Sandra Bland, who was arrested following an emotional spat with a state trooper, killed herself in jail two days after her arrest.  The Sandra Bland Act addresses jail standards, training for dealing the mentally ill, and mandatory de-escalation training for law enforcement.

"Making sure that our jailers are trained to deal with people with mental illness, and to check on individuals who may be having challenges when they are booked into jail, like Sandra Bland," Committee Chair State Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) told News Radio 1200 WOAI.

The law was seen as particularly burdensome for rural county jails, which were required to have resources on hand to deal with mentally ill inmates.

"It should make it safer for everyone, whether it be law enforcement, people on Texas highways, or people facing challenges due to mental illness," Coleman said.

It is estimated that as many as one third of inmates in Texas county jails are in jail for issues relating in one way or another to mental illness.  Among homeless people, that figure is 50% or more.

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