Texas County Jails: 140 Suicides in Five Years

Sandra Bland Memorial - AP Photo - Pat Sullivan
AP Photo/Pat Sullivan

One hundred forty people have committed suicide in Texas county jails over the past five years. This disturbing trend was revealed in the wake of the hanging suicide of Sandra Bland in the Waller County jail two weeks ago.

As Bland’s autopsy reports were being reported in Waller County, the Texas House County Affairs Committee announced it would hold hearings on jail standards for county jails in Texas, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Chairman Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) said the committee hearing will focus on “jail standards, procedures with regards to potentially mentally ill persons in county jails, as well as issues stemming from interactions between the general public and peace officers,” according to the committee announcement obtained by Breitbart Texas.

Following the death of Bland in the Waller County jail, which was officially ruled as a suicide, the committee decided to look into the trend of suicides in jails in Texas.

The one hundred forty people who killed themselves in county jails, does not include twenty-one people who killed themselves in municipal jails, according to the Chronicle. Breitbart Texas reported that Hung Do, aged 38, hung himself in the Houston Police Department’s jail this week. His was the first suicide in that city’s jail in four years.

The number also does not include suicides committed in state and federal prisons in Texas.

Since the Texas Commission on Jail Standards began keeping records in 2009, twenty-four of the one hundred forty suicide victims were located in county jails in the greater Houston area and surrounding counties.

The Waller County jail, where Bland killed herself, was not cited by the regulatory jail standards commission. While the commission did state there were several “red flags,” it concluded the jailers were not at fault because they filled out the intake evaluation form completely.

“The form was filled out in its entirety,” Commission Director Brandon Wood told the Chronicle in explaining why the jail was not faulted. “It’s a subjective form. And the final question regarding ‘does the screener suspect mental illness’ does say no.”

“If we had more resources, to conduct more trainings, so as to ensure jailers were aware of forms and recommendations out there, it would benefit all involved,” Wood concluded. He said he had been notified of the House committee hearing.

Wood’s investigation into the Bland incident did reveal two areas where the jail was non-compliant with jail standards.

The first revolved around the jails failure to document training of its personnel in regards to handling mentally ill or disabled inmates. The second stated the jailers did not perform hourly face-to-face observations of the inmate. This is apparently a recurring problem in jails across the state.

The hearing by the Texas House Committee on County Affairs will be held in the State Capitol on July, 30.

Bob Price is a senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas and a member of the original Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.



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