Sandra Bland’s family will get a $1.9 million settlement after her death in police custody, but no one will be punished

The case brought attention to the deaths of black women in police custody.
The case brought attention to the deaths of black women in police custody.
Image: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton
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The family of Sandra Bland, who died in a Texas jail in 2015, will get $1.9 million in a settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit. The case brought national attention to the problem of jailhouse suicide and deaths, particularly those of black women. As in most cases involving police misconduct, there will be no serious consequences for any individuals implicated Bland’s death.

Bland, 28, was stopped for failing to signal that she was changing a lane while driving to a job interview in July 2015. The state trooper who stopped her reported that she was uncooperative, and took her into custody.

Three days after she was arrested, she was found dead in her cell in Waller County jail. A medical examiner ruled her death a suicide, but her family maintains she would not have killed herself. According to a report obtained by CNN, officers failed to check on Bland in a timely manner, as is required by procedure.

No one faced prosecution for causing Bland’s death, although the arresting officer was indicted for perjury, and was subsequently fired from the police department. The settlement—and lack of indictments—follows a similar pattern to other cases of police killings or deaths in law enforcement custody. The amount granted to the family is notably smaller than in the cases of Tamir Rice ($6 million), Freddy Gray, ($6.4 million), and Eric Garner ($5.9 million).

The settlement, however, will change how the jail operates. Its conditions included that a nurse or medical technician be on duty at all times, that electronic sensors ensure cells are checked on time, and that staff receives more training.

The Waller County judge will also seek state funding for local jails to improve jail booking and screening. Any legislation that passes will have to be named in honor of Sandra Bland.

Bland’s family is happy with the result, her mother Geneva Reed-Veal, told Buzzfeed News. “Now that it’s happening, I’m sure it will set a precedent across the country,” she said. “People won’t be satisfied with just money. We need to make sure that they are making change that will save lives.”

After her daughter’s death, Reed-Veal became active in raising awareness about police misconduct and the deaths of black women in jail. She is one of the “Mothers of the Movement,” a group of mothers of victims of police brutality who have been involved in Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president.

Women in jail are the fastest growing group among the incarcerated population in the United States—their number has increased 14-fold since 1970. Like the overall population in the criminal justice system, they are disproportionately people of color.