Who Will Pay for Texas Criminal Justice Reform?

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After Sandra Bland’s suicide in a Waller County, Tx., jail cell, several state legislators promised criminal justice reforms to help improve the way county jails help inmates with mental health issues. Now a big question looms ahead of the session: Who is going to pay for those reforms in a tight budget year?, reports the Texas Tribune. In a wrongful death settlement, a Waller County judge agreed to eek reform legislation in Bland’s name. State Rep. Garnet Coleman promised to introduce the Sandra Bland Act to address several of the issues around her death.

In addition to requiring more police training in de-escalation, Coleman wants to improve the way Texas jails deal with mental illness.  Tom Rhodes, the Bland family’s attorney, says the state needs to improve medical care and inmate monitoring. That could include everything from expanding requirements for nurses in jails, making telemedicine available, and using a card swipe systems to monitor how frequently inmates are checked up on. Jackson County Sheriff A. J. “Andy” Louderback is worried that jails will end up paying for these reforms without state funding. “Most of our jails, here in Texas, don’t have the type of resources that are necessary to take care of all the criminal justice reforms that are being asked about and talked about and printed about right now,” he says. Lawmakers have significantly less cash to work with this year.


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