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Sheriff Says Problems at Jail Played No Role in Death of Sandra Bland

Jailers at the Waller County Jail did not check on Bland in person every hour as required before she apparently committed suicide this week.
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The Texas sheriff’s office that runs a jail where a woman apparently committed suicide this week admitted problems with training and checking up on inmates, but said the deficiencies played no role in her death.

Sandra Bland, 28, was found dead in her jail cell at the Waller County Jail on July 13, three days after she was arrested in Prairie View after allegedly becoming combative with an officer during a routine traffic stop on July 10. Authorities said it appears that Bland hanged herself, but her family has questioned that account.

On Thursday, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards rapped the Waller County Jail for insufficient training and for failing to check on inmates face-to-face every hour, and ordered it to come into compliance.

The Waller County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Friday that the two jailers involved did receive mental health training, just not in the past year, and jailers did check in on Bland, but used an intercom system rather than an in-person inspection as required.

"At this time we have no reason to believe that either one of these deficiencies had any part on the death of Ms. Bland," the sheriff’s office said in the statement, adding that it will come into compliance with the rules.

"We will be working on any improvements that can be made to see that this type of tragic incident never happens again," the sheriff’s office said.

Bland, a civil rights advocate, had recently moved to the area from suburban Chicago for a new job. She said in an online posting earlier this month that she was "depressed" but an attorney representing her family said that statement was made in March, and speaks little to her mindset before her death.

An employee with the Texas Department of Public Safety involved in the July 10 traffic stop that ended with Bland’s arrest was placed on administrative duty on Thursday after the department "identified violations of the department’s procedures regarding traffic stops and the department’s courtesy policy."

The Texas Rangers and FBI are investigating Bland's death.