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New Mental Health Screening Forms Could Be Coming to Texas Jails

Four months after Sandra Bland's body was found hanging in her cell at Waller County Jail, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards says new intake forms could be coming soon to Texas jails to improve mental health screening for inmates, the Associated Press reports

According to the AP, Texas lawmakers yesterday learned that jails might begin using the new intake forms as early as November. Brandon Wood, executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, told the AP that the new forms would clarify for jailers how to process inmates with histories of mental illness. It remains to be seen how, exactly, these new forms will do that.

Bland's intake form was contradictory. In one spot, jailers noted Bland said she had not had suicidal thoughts in the past year — but elsewhere on the form, jailers indicated that Bland had told them she attempted suicide earlier this year. Either way, the intake form was apparently not enough to alert jailers to take special precautions when processing Bland, who was found dead in her cell three days after being arrested during a traffic stop.

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An autopsy conducted by the Harris County medical examiner ruled Bland's death a suicide. According to a 2013 report by the University of Texas, suicide is the second-leading cause of death in Texas county jails, behind only natural causes. There have been 140 reported suicides in Texas jails since 2009. In July, we reported that the Texas Commission on Jail Standards cited Waller County Jail for substandard training in how to handle potentially suicidal and mentally disabled inmates.

Here is Sandra Bland's intake sheet from Waller County Jail:

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