The sister of Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old woman who was found dead in her Texas jail cell in July 2015, is furious over the “gut-wrenching” ways she says a criminal justice reform bill created in Bland’s honor has been drastically weakened by law enforcement groups and Republicans.
The latest version of the legislation, which unanimously passed the Texas Senate last week, has been stripped of provisions that would require a higher burden of proof for stopping and searching vehicles, as well as those that would ban arrests over offenses that are punishable by a fine. An earlier version of the bill also required officers who have racially profiled drivers to undergo training and included language to make personal bonds more easily attainable for nonviolent arrestees.
Instead the bill, which Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire (D) essentially described to The Associated Press as “a mental health and awareness piece of legislation,” has been slimmed down to focus on providing mental health and de-escalation training for jailers. It will also provide mental health care access to and increased supervision of inmates.
“What the bill does in its current state renders Sandy invisible,” Sharon Cooper, Bland’s sister, told the AP. “It’s frustrating and gut-wrenching.”
Bland’s family was hopeful that the bill would bring comprehensive and sweeping changes to policing in Texas, but loved ones are now outraged over the ways the bill has been altered. They say it will now do little to prevent similar instances with the police like that which Bland experienced.