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Jul 18, 2017
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ColorLines

The Jail Where Sandra Bland Died Now Authorized to Detain Undocumented Immigrants

The Waller County (Texas) Jail was recently approved for Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s 287(g) program—despite failing its Texas Commission on Jail Standards inspection.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has reached an agreement with Waller County to deputize the sheriff’s office for the controversial immigration enforcement program 287(g). Theprogram authorizes deputies to act on the behalf of ICE to arrest and detain people based on their immigration status. In turn, county officials are given broad powers to jumpstart deportation proceedings for immigrants who otherwise wouldn’t have been on the radar of federal agents.

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The Waller County Jail was required to revamp its protocols and provide additional medical care in the wake of Bland’s death. Yet even after those reforms were implemented, major problems continued to persist.

The county jail came under investigation in March after a female prisoner alleged that she was sexually assaulted by a man who was also incarcerated in the jail. The man was performing cleaning duties for the jail at the time of the alleged incident. County officials later acknowledged that the inmate was never authorized to take on those duties in the first place.

The jail later failed its inspection with the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, state documents show. Jail staff was found non-compliant in three separate areas, including violations for not keeping male and female inmates separate at all times, unless under direct supervision.

Within days of both the assault and the failed inspection, ICE officials formally approved Waller County’s application to join 287(g).

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Texas activists are now concerned that the program’s loaded background doesn’t help Waller County’s already strained relations between police and people of color. Despite all that the community has been through, particularly after Bland’s death, it’s unclear whether officials have learned their lesson, says Bob Libal, executive director of the Texas-based civil rights groupGrassroots Leadership.

“What 287(g) does is literally turn local police into deportation agents,” Libal added. “That’s obviously profoundly disturbing and certainly seeds distrust with law enforcement.” Read more about The Jail Where Sandra Bland Died Now Authorized to Detain Undocumented Immigrants

Jul 13, 2017
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Austin American-Statesmen

Study: Blacks stay in Travis County Jail twice as long as whites

According to the Grassroots Leadership’s analysis of 2015 jail booking data, African-Americans stayed in the Travis County Jail nearly twice as long as Caucasian inmates on average — and the disparities held when comparing white and black inmates with the same lead charge and total number of charges.

For instance, African-Americans booked on a charge of driving while intoxicated spent almost 15 days in jail on average; whites were generally released within five days. When it comes to felony drug possession charges, blacks spent an average of 50 days in jail, while whites only spent 31.

Overall, African-American inmates spent nearly 23 days on average in the Travis County Jail, almost double the roughly 14 days for Caucasians.

“Blacks are jailed longer on average when charged with crimes of each and every level and degree — even when the number of charges is the same,” said Chris Harris, the data analyst who authored the report for Grassroots Leadership. “Time spent in local jail often has little to do with guilt or innocence as the vast majority of people held in this building have not been convicted.”

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The Grassroots Leadership study was released on the second anniversary of Sandra Bland’s death, a high-profile case that shined a spotlight on police and jail practices in the state.

Bland was pulled over in Waller County by a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper for failing to signal while switching lanes, but video of the incident showed the traffic stop quickly spun out of control, resulting in a violent arrest. Two days later, she was found dead in her cell at the Waller County Jail. Authorities ruled her death a suicide.

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The Grassroots Leadership study shows that some 6,000 bookings into the Travis County Jail in 2015 were for Class C misdemeanors, a class of offense for things like traffic tickets and possession of small amounts of marijuana that would typically include no jail time if convicted. Read more about Study: Blacks stay in Travis County Jail twice as long as whites

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