The family of a 61 year old woman who died in the Bexar County Jail last week says they will sue the County and the University Health System, claiming detention officers ignored the woman's mental health issues, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Janice Dotson-Stephens was found dead in the jail, after being incarcerated for five months because she didn't make a $300 bond on a criminal trespass arrest.. Five months is longer than a sentence she would likely have received had she been convicted of the misdemeanor crime.
Dotson-Stephens' family says she struggled from mental health issues for decades.. They believe she didn't understand her situation in the jail, which is why she didn't post bond to secure her release.
An autopsy determined that the cause of her death was, in part, due to chronic symptoms related to schizophrenia.
The family's lawyers told a news conference the Dotson-Stevens case may be a violation of the Sandra Bland Law, passed by the Texas Legislature after Bland was jailed following a contentious altercation with a Texas State Trooper over a minor alleged traffic violation in 2015.. Bland killed herself three days later in the Waller County Jail near Houston.. The law requires all Texas county jails to screen incoming inmates for possible mental or emotional conditions and provide the appropriate conditions and treatment.
This case not only raises issues about proper treatment for the mentally ill in custody, but also the widespread concern for bail bond reform.. Experts estimate that as many as two thirds of the inmates in Texas county jails at any given time have never been convicted of any crime, and are incarcerated simply because they are unable or for other reasons don't pay the cash bond required for their release.