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July 24, 2017

np 006 Jail Suicides -Baltimore – Police

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On July 10 Sandra Bland was stopped by a Texas State Trooper for an illegal lane change. She was arrested and brought to the Waller County Jail.  She later committed  suicide. We’ll need more information to understand what happened to Bland. As Radley Balko notes, jailhouse suicide is disturbingly common. Regardless of the circumstances of Bland’s death, however, a routine stop for failing to use a blinker should not end in several days of imprisonment and death. That has brought a natural focus on Waller County and the figures involved. After Walter Scott was shot and killed by a North Charleston, South Carolina, police officer, advocates noted that traffic stops are often a pretext for searching or questioning citizens of color. Scott, who was pulled over for having a taillight out, was wanted for failing to pay child support, and it’s speculated that led him to run away. He was shot in the back as he ran. In North Charleston, police made traffic stops involving African Americans far out of proportion to their percentage of the population. That isn’t the case in Waller County. Statewide, stops and citations for black people in Texas are actually lower than their share of the overall population, and the same holds true for stops by the Waller County sheriff and police in the towns of Hempstead and Prairie View.. https://blendz72.wordpress.com/2015/07/25/sandra-bland-and-the-long-history-of-r…

I don’t intend to rehash the facts or allegations of the case. I went to the City of Waller website and found the following statement and thought it interesting. I guess they were getting a lot of unwanted attention.

The Sandra Bland incident occurred in Waller County and not the City of Waller. Please address your comments and concerns to Waller County @ www.wallercountytexassheriff.org

I followed the above link and was taken to the Waller County site where I read the Waller County Jail mission statement.


I followed the above link and was taken to the Waller County site where I read the Waller County Jail mission statement.

The Jail Division is under the command of Chief Deputy Joe Hester. The mission of Waller County Sheriff’s Office Jail Division is to maintain social order and provide professional detention services within prescribed ethical and constitutional limits. WCSO Jail has as its prime goal the operation of a safe, humane, and cost-effective facility that provides a place of confinement, punishment, and an opportunity for reflective thought and positive change. WCSO Jail recognizes that no detention facility can operate at its maximum potential without supportive input from the citizens it serves.  WCSO Jail actively solicits and encourages the cooperation of citizens to reduce the opportunities for crime, while maximizing use of existing resources.

Sandra Bland was high on marijuana — while she was incarcerated in the Texas jail where she eventually died — according to Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis. Mathis reportedly said in a text message to an attorney representing the Bland family that “[l]ooking at the autopsy results and toxicology, it appears she swallowed a large quantity of marijuana or smoked it in the jail.”

If true, this allegation suggests that security in this jail facility is extraordinarily lax. How does marijuana make its way to an incarcerated individual in the first place? And how does that individual manage to smoke or eat a “large quantity” of it without jail officials noticing?

The allegation that Bland used pot shortly before her death, moreover, fits a pattern in high-profile cases involving the questionable death of a black man or woman that has become so common that it is practically a cliché. During the uncertain period where investigators and reporters are trying to figure out just why someone died, news suddenly leaks that this individual was a marijuana user. Generally, the alleged marijuana use is raised to discredit someone is is no longer able to speak for themselves, and to imply that the marijuana use somehow contributed to their death.

At George Zimmerman’s trial for the killing of Trayvon Martin, for example, Zimmerman’s lawyer pointed to traces of marijuana in Martin’s blood. One conservative blogger claimed, without evidence, that Martin was a drug dealer.

Similarly, the lawyer representing Theodore Wafer — who was convicted of shooting Renisha McBride while she stood outside on his front porch, apparently seeking help after she was in a car accident — told that jury that McBride was out a friend’s house before she was killed drinking and smoking marijuana. Jonathan Ferrell, a former college football player who was killed by cops after he also sought help after a car wreck, was accused of drinking and smoking. Toxicology reports later found no drugs in Ferrell’s system and his blood alcohol level was below the legal limit.

The reported allegation that Bland used marijuana while incarcerated adds to the haze of uncertainty surrounding her death. Although Mathis says that his office’s inquiry into Bland’s death is “being treated like a murder investigation,” the sheriff’s office claims that Bland was discovered “in her cell not breathing from what appears to be self-inflicted asphyxiation,” and a preliminary autopsy announced on Thursday corroborates this claim. Jail intake forms released on Wednesday indicate that Bland answered “yes” when asked if she had previously attempted suicide, although there are discrepancies between two different forms asking about whether she has attempted or contemplated suicide.

If investigators ultimately conclude that Bland’s death was a suicide — and not a homicide — Mathis’s reported claim that Bland used marijuana while she was in jail suggests that something still went horribly wrong while Bland was behind bars. If it was indeed possible for Bland to consume a “large quantity of marijuana” while incarcerated, that suggests that the jail may have lacked other important safeguards, such as procedures to ensure that suicidal inmates do not act on these impulses.

On Monday morning, police in Mount Vernon, New York discovered a 44-year-old woman dead in her cell. She is the fifth black woman, at least, to die behind bars this month.

According to Mayor Earnest Davis, Raynetta Turner was arrested and locked in a holding cell Saturday afternoon on shoplifting charges. Some time after her arrest, Turner informed Westchester County police that she had numerous medical problems, and was eventually brought to Montefiore-Mount Vernon Hospital Sunday evening. She returned to the holding cell briefly that night, before she was taken for fingerprinting at 2 a.m. She was found dead 12 hours later.

The mayor has since explained that Turner’s medical history included hypertension and bariatric surgery. No official cause of death has been determined.        screen-shot-320x213

But her death follows at least four other deaths of black women in police custody since July 13, shining an even brighter spotlight on the plight of black women in the criminal justice system and fueling the Black Lives Matter movement. On that date, Sandra Bland was found hanging in her cell, three days after she was violently stopped for failing to signal a lane change in Waller County, Texas. The next day, 18-year-old Kindra Chapman committed suicide in an Alabama prison. She was arrested for stealing a cell phone. Joyce Curnell was arrested on shoplifting charges and found dead in her cell on July 24. On July 26, officers found Ralkina Jones dead in the Cleveland Heights City Jail, two days after she was arrested for a physical dispute with her husband. Like Turner, she was brought to a medical facility after a staff member observed Jones was lethargic — then returned to the jail. Prison officials say they conducted several check ups on the night she returned, but found her unresponsive around 7:30 the next morning. An investigation is currently underway.


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