Either I’m living in a parallel universe or there is a pattern at play in prisons. Black people go to jail for simple crimes and end up dead. The cause of death, suicide. A few weeks ago I wrote an article on Lamar Johnson, a 27-year-old man who was said to have hung himself in the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison. Yesterday news stories broke all over the country about 28-year-old Sandra Bland dying in a prison in Texas. Both of these young black people, who weren’t in jail for major issues, end up dead to what is said to be suicide.
The problem here with both stories is that the families have to protest to get the answers they are looking for. In America, where we pay taxes that pay the salaries of those who work the prisons. We should never have to jump through hoops to get answers. With Bland, Texas Rangers are now investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of 28-year-old Sandra Bland.
Bland was found in her jail cell on Monday morning. The Waller County Sheriff’s Office says she was “not breathing from what appears to be self-inflicted asphyxiation” and CPR was immediately performed. Bland was pronounced dead shortly after.
Family members and friends have since spoken out and said Bland would never hurt herself. She was a graduate of Prairie View A&M and had recently accepted a job with the college. They say she was excited about starting a new job and new life in Texas.
Bland was pulled over on a traffic stop and arrested Friday on a charge of assaulting a public servant.
In the case of Johnson his mother Linda Franks says her son was stopped for a minor traffic violation at which point the officer from the Baker Police Department was made aware of a warrant for arrest for Lamar. Mrs. Franks was made to believe that it was something minor and Lamar would be out in a matter of days. Here is where the story gets tricky. According to a nola.com story written later in the day, “East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks provided a Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office warrant that said Johnson was actually suspected of trying to pass a counterfeit check for $983.87. While in custody, Johnson asked to be placed in a private “lockdown” cell, Hicks said, “because other inmates were talking about him.” He was placed in a private cell, and then on May 30, four days after his arrest, he was said to have been found hanging from his bed sheet.
I spoke with Mrs. Franks a few weeks ago and her comments to me were plain and simple, she just wants to know what happened to her son. In reading the story from nola.com and talking to staff from the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison, I am still left asking the question what happened to cause a healthy, vibrant man, as he is described by his mother, to hang himself. The next question I have is how long was it before the guards realized he had done something like this if that is truly what happened and why did his mother have to reach out by doing a change.org petition asking for answers to get some light shed on her situation?
So is there a code that we don’t know about, that if something happens to a prisoner in jail guards call it a suicide to avoid investigations into the death? In the case of Bland at least the FBI is now involved. Here in Baton Rouge, Mrs. Franks is still searching for answers. Something I still don’t understand. Mainstream media in Baton Rouge has stayed away from the case. Maybe now that national attention is on the situation of Sandra Bland, the family of Lamar Johnson can get some answers too.
Source: The Rouge Collection