Will Jail Cameras Show What Happened to Sandra Bland?

The Texas Rangers and the FBI have already launched investigations.

By Alain StephensJuly 17, 2015 9:00 am

In another time, a jailhouse suicide would have probably been the final word on the fate of 28-year-old Sandra Bland. But it is not the final word. In fact, Bland’s trip to Texas has become a national flashpoint in the conversation about race and policing in America.

Bland was an African-American woman, traveling from Illinois to Houston to start a new job. After a traffic stop in Prairie View in early July, a video captured by a bystander shows Bland thrown to the ground and arrested for allegedly being combative with a state trooper. She was taken to the Waller County jail, and was found dead in her cell Monday morning.

According to the sheriff, she’d hanged herself. The district attorney of Waller County says everything points to death by suicide, using a trash bag hung from the ceiling.

But does everything point to death by suicide? Family members and friends say the circumstances of her life and death don’t add up and suspect foul play may have been a factor in her death. On Thursday, the internet weighed in on the discussion with the hashtags #JusticeForSandy and #SayHerName.

Both the Texas Rangers and the FBI have opened an investigation. Brandon Wood is among the many asking questions too. He’s the executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards and is part of an investigation to figure out what happened.

On cameras in Texas cells:

“They’re not required. Jails may have video cameras within cells, and they may have them in booking areas and corridors, but they are not required to be installed within county jails themselves. … We’ve always taken the position that personal observation of the inmates will always provide the best capability and ensure safety and security.”

On the presence of cameras to allow for the reviewing of records:

“The logistics and the technological challenges associated with installing standards – the wire and the servers and server space required to retain that footage after it’s been recorded – can be pretty challenging and it’s costly for county government.”

On whether he would support a change that would require cameras:

“As far as requiring it in every area, as long as it didn’t look into the wet areas and violate any limited privacy that inmates have, especially those that are pre trail and have not yet been convicted, then it would be something that we would encourage counties to look at.”

For more on the interview, listen to the audio at the top of the page.