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Mental Health Jail Check Failed in Bland Case

30 July 2015No Comments

Sandra-BeforeMag_jpg_312x1000_q100According to the State Jail Commission, The Waller County Jail failed to complete a two-part mental health screening process required by state law during Sandra Bland’s booking process. At least one public policy group has confirmed this as well.

Sandra Bland was the 28-year old who was found hanged in one of the jail’s cells on July, 13, thee days after she was arrested and booked, should have received a court-ordered mental health exam once she indicated she had tried to commit suicide in the past. This was confirmed by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.

Diana Spiller, a research analyst with the agency that oversees county jails in Texas stated, “The commission believes that at the very least, given what was on the screening form, the magistrate should have been notified.”


A standard background check of state records for a history of mental health issues also failed in the Bland case, officials said. Although that process did not yield information about Bland, its failure concerns state officials who are trying to determine what happened. The Texas House Committee on County Affairs will hold a hearing to review mental health assessments, as well as overall county jail standards as a result of Bland’s death.

According to Bland’s booking documents recently released, she told a jailer that she had attempted suicide in 2015 and had been depressed following the death of a baby. In another for that complicates the matter, Bland had stated that she had not attempted suicide. Capt. Brian Cantrell of the Waller County Sheriff’s Office stated that Bland was asked about her mental health at two different times during her booking and she answered two different ways.

Regardless, once Bland answered “yes” when asked about depression and attempted suicide, the jail should have notified a magistrate of the possible mental health issue under state law. The magistrate would then order a mental health professional to perform a more thorough exam. That did not occur.

Bland’s second exam was done through a computer,  along with checking an inmate’s past criminal history. Texas jailers now perform what is called a Continuity of Care Query, or CCQ, by searching the state’s health department databases to determine if an inmate has received any Texas mental health services. This is found either through the state psychiatric hospital system or as an outpatient at the 39 community mental health center in the state.

Waller County Jail officials did run a CCQ check on Bland shortly after she was brought into the facility on July 10. They informed the state commission it was done at 6:36 p.m. But they could not complete the query because of technical problems, they told the agency.  “This system was down and did not process a return,” Waller County told the commission in an email. The check was eventually completed on July 13, at 9:16 a.m., after Bland was found hanged.

The Texas Department of Public Safety operates the computer network — known as the Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunication System, or TLETS — used to access the Texas Department of State Health Services mental service database. That system was working the day Bland was booked, said DPS spokesman Tom Vinger.”We do not show that TLETS was down,” Vinger said. “In fact, we show several transactions from the Waller County Sheriff’s Office over TLETS that day.”

After Bland’s death, the CCQ showed she had never used any public mental health services in Texas. But the health department is reviewing why Waller County officials were not able to process the CCQ when she was booked into the jail.


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Posted Under: Wrongful Death