Sandra Bland’s Death Raises Concerns About Jail’s Mental Health Screening

The Waller County District Attorney has released the autopsy report into Sandra Bland’s death. He confirms that she committed suicide in her cell at the Waller County Jail. Some experts are questioning the facility’s mental health screening process.


The Texas Commission on Jail Standards requires all county inmates to complete a mental health questionnaire.

The Waller County Jail did that, and Sandra Bland said she attempted suicide earlier this year.

The same questionnaire asked a screener these questions: was Bland was at risk of suicide, or did they suspect her of mental illness? The screener marked “no” on both questions.

Larry Hill is a professor of social work at the University of Houston. He says Bland should have been monitored more closely.

“If someone indicates that they have suicidal ideations or an attempt, that is an immediate red flag for us to say we should take extra concern,” Hill says.

The commission requires county jail staff to undergo two hours of training a year on how to recognize and handle mental health issues. A recent inspection report shows the Waller County Jail failed to complete that training.

Hill says Bland’s intake records raise many questions about how thoroughly she was screened and processed.

“Who filled that out, and how did that assessment go? “Were they sitting down with the inmate taking that assessment question-by-question?” he asks. 

On a summary page, jail staff marked that Bland had not attempted suicide despite her previous admissions.



Tomeka Weatherspoon

Tomeka Weatherspoon

Senior Producer

Tomeka Weatherspoon is an Emmy-award winning producer. She produces segments, the weekly television program Arts InSight, the short film showcase The Territory and a forthcoming digital series on innovation. Originally from the Midwest, Tomeka studied convergence journalism from the world’s first journalism school at the University of Missouri. She has...

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