No justice for Sandra Bland. That is the decision made by a Texas grand jury in charge of investigating what happened to her in Waller County Jail
last summer. On Dec. 23, the grand jury decided not to indict anyone relating to her death, including employees of the Waller County Jail, where she was found dead in her cell.
For most people it is easy to see the part racism played in her arrest at the hands of Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia, hence the degree of public
outrage surrounding this case. There is simply no reason that Sandra Bland should have been arrested and subsequently jailed during that traffic stop, and had she not been unjustly arrested, she would still be alive today.
While the jury is set to reconvene in January to discuss the possible indictment of officer Brian Encinia, Bland’s family is not optimistic, and for good reason. The grand jury appears to have accepted the narrative put forth that Bland committed suicide in her jail cell. Even if this were the case, why was the grand jury incapable of finding any wrongdoing or negligence on the part of Waller County Jail employees, who had failed to meet the requirements of several policies intended to prevent suicides?
Why did the small Texas town convene a grand jury to investigate this case in the first place? The growing movement against police brutality, institutional racism, and racism in policing forced them to take some kind of action. It appears that the Waller County criminal justice system hoped to pacify this movement by convening a grand jury which would then fail to indict. That this conclusion is reasonable is supported by the fact the Sheriff of Waller County, Glenn Smith, had been fired from a previous job as police chief in Hempstead, Texas after repeated allegations of racism.
“Right now the biggest problem I have is the entire process,” said Geneva Reed-Veal, Bland’s mother, and we would agree. “We’re supposed to have an investigation to show us what’s happening. We know what we’ve been listening to in the media … but we don’t have any real evidence.” (NPR) Yet prosecutors failed to interview any of Bland’s family, inform them of any physical evidence, or even keep them up to date with the proceedings of the grand jury.
It certainly appears that no real investigation has taken place. Prosecutors and the grand jury are simply covering for a criminal “justice” system that does not provide any justice. The entire process does not work. If we want a criminal justice system that truly serves and protects the rights of all people, we won’t find it through reforming the existing apparatus. The growth of the Black Lives Matter movement has enforced a greater degree of accountability for police, but the results here show us that there is still more work to do. At a time like this we must stand in solidarity with the family of Sandra Bland and all those who fight against racism and police brutality.