A panel reviewing the jail where Sandra Bland died last summer after being taken into custody has called for a major overhaul of its procedures and facilities.
According to Chief Deputy Brian Cantrell, Bland's jailhouse death prompted Sheriff Glenn Smith to appoint a group of local attorneys to find ways to improve procedures within the department. The panel issued its recommendations Tuesday. It says a new jail is needed because the current one is inadequate. The panel also called for improving digital access to information about inmates and purchasing body cameras for staff.
One panelist, Craig Washington, said inmates are "entitled to be treated with dignity and respect."
Bland, who was black and from the Chicago area, died in the Waller County jail three days after her arrest. Authorities ruled it a suicide.
Dashcam video captured a confrontation between Bland and Brian Encinia, the trooper who arrested her. Encinia has pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor perjury charge.
Trooper enters not guilty plea in Sandra Bland case
Smith admits finding the money to implement some of these suggestions will be difficult.
"Coming up with 23, 25 million dollars to build a new facility, that's a issue," Smith said. "That's a real issue and I respect and understand that. That's where the financial people, the citizens will have to come together and figure that out for us."
Smith said he looks at this whole review process as an honor for Bland's family.
Reverend Hannah Bonner, who prayed outside the Waller County Jail for weeks after Bland's death, is skeptical of the reasons behind this review panel.
"I think from the primary motivation in this was to distract from Sandra Bland's death and to distract from the calls for an investigation by the justice department, which we're still calling for," Bonner said. "So I hope, of course, that there will be positive outcomes, but I don't think that was the primary motivation."
The Associated Press contributed to this report