Sandra Bland died in a Texas jail on Monday morning, at the age of twenty-eight. She was in that cell because:
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, on July 10, a trooper stopped the Hyundai that Bland was driving in Waller County because she didn’t signal to change lanes. Bland “became argumentative and uncooperative” during the traffic stop, the department said in a news release, and she was taken into custody.
As yet there is only partial footage of her arrest (or purported partial footage). But if failing to signal lane changes and "being argumentative and uncooperative" were common reasons for putting someone in jail, half of Boston drivers would find themselves currently incarcerated.
Something smells off about the case, both what took place during her arrest and the way she died. The autopsy findings are that she hanged herself in that cell, despite having a new job to look forward, despite having just moved into the area, despite being in that jail cell for something quite minor, as crimes go.
Her case resembles the 2014 case of Kimberlee Randale-King, who was arrested for outstanding traffic warrants after participating in a row or brawl and who was later found dead in her cell. She, too, was stated as having hanged herself in the cell.
And her case also resembles the equally recent case of Kindra Darnell Chapman who was jailed on first-degree robbery charges (for allegedly taking a cell phone). Chapman, too, was found hanged in her cell.
These three cases don't just share the manner of death. All three women were African-Americans.
That's about how far I was able to come by mere Google research. For me to go further, to look into police brutality, say, or into racism as a possible reason for the harsh treatment of at least two of the women is not possible with the data I have gathered.
But cases of these types deserve much closer scrutiny. In particular, those responsible for jail inmates seem to have failed in the duty to ensure their safety. I find it unlikely that someone close to a suicidal state would not show any symptoms about it while being deposited in a cell. I may be wrong about that, but as a minimum we should ask how jails and prisons and the police handle emotionally fraught or mentally ill individuals.