The family of Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old black woman who died in a Texas jail last year, reached a settlement earlier this month in a wrongful death lawsuit filed in federal court. In addition to $1.9 million, the settlement also includes an agreement to change jailhouse procedures, including improving staff training and adding emergency nurses at the jail.
Bland was found hanging in her jail cell three days after she was pulled over for failing to use a turn signal in July 2015. The lawsuit charged that jail officials failed to check on her at regular intervals and left “inappropriate items,” such as a large garbage can, garbage bags and cords in her cell, which had exposed beams. Jailers also ignored Bland's “uncontrollable” bouts of crying and her refusal to eat.
The question from the outset was why she was even arrested. A Texas State Trooper pulled her over for failing to use a turn signal. Bland was sitting in her car smoking while speaking with the trooper. When she questioned why she had to put out her cigarette and refused to get out of her car, the trooper threatened to Taser her. The trooper claimed Bland attacked him, but he was later indicted on a perjury charge and fired.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics Deaths In Custody Reporting Program collects inmate death records from each of the 50 state prisons in the U.S., and about 2,800 local jails. In 2003 the program also began collecting statistics on deaths during arrests. The most recent data available is from 2013.
Key numbers from the most recent report include jail and prison data:
- Local jail inmate deaths increased 1 percent, from 958 deaths in 2012 to 967 deaths in 2013.
- Suicides in local jails increased 9 percent, from 300 suicides in 2012 to 327 in 2013.
- Jail inmate deaths due to liver disease decreased 35percent, from 29 deaths in 2012 to 19 in 2013.
- Deaths in prison increased from 3,357 in 2012 to 3,479 in 2013, reaching the highest number since the prison data collection began in 2001. The total number of deaths increased 4 percent between 2012 and 2013.
- Illness-related deaths accounted for 89 percent of all deaths in prison in 2013.
- The prisoner mortality rate increased 3 percent, from 265 deaths per 100,000 state prisoners in 2012 to 274 per 100,000 in 2013.
Other key findings include:
- The prisoner mortality rate for drug or alcohol intoxication increased 69 percent from 2012 to 2013.
- In state prisons, the percentage of decedents age 55 or older has increased by an average of 8 percent annually since 2001. By 2013, more than half --57 percent -- of prisoner deaths were of inmates age 55 or older.
- While the average mortality rate for male and female inmates was nearly equal from 2000 to 2013, the suicide mortality rate among male jail inmates -- 43 per 100,000 -- was 1.5 times the rate for female inmates, at 28 per 100,000.
If a loved has died in custody, you may be entitled to compensation, despite the recent Arizona ruling. Call the offices of trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian at 800-529-6162 or contact them online. The firm handles cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.