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Sandra Bland Act Signed Into Law By Texas Governor

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a measure that seeks to prevent the circumstances that led to the death of Sandra Bland, KGBT reports.

Bland, 28, died in a Waller County jail after being detained during a traffic stop in July 2015. Her death sparked protests throughout the country, as it presented yet another example of African-Americans dying while in police custody.

Her death was ruled a suicide, but family members say she would not have taken her own life.

The law mandates county jail officials divert people with substance abuse and mental health issues toward treatment and makes it easier for those in custody to receive personal bond if they have a mental illness or disability. It also requires independent law enforcement agencies to investigate jail deaths.

The bill was introduced by state Rep. Garnet Coleman of Houston in honor of Bland. Originally, it tackled racial profiling during traffic stops, consent searches and counseling for officers who profiled drivers. That version of the bill did not move out of committee because of opposition from law enforcement groups and lawmakers who were concerned about unfunded mandates.

Houston state Sen. John Whitmire then drafted a Senate version of the bill that removed a lot of the language related to police encounters. The bill, which focused mostly on mental health, passed both chambers without opposition.

Last month, members of Bland’s family expressed disappointment in the Senate’s version of the bill, saying it does not address the cause of her arrest.

“It’s a complete oversight of the root causes of why she was jailed in the first place,” Bland’s sister Sharon Cooper said in an interview with the Texas Tribune at the time.

The law will go into effect Sept. 1.


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