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Jail Mental Health Contact for Families

My Family Member Has Been Arrested - What Do I Do?

A guide to help families when a family member who suffers from a serious mental illness is arrested.


STEP ONE: SUPPORT YOUR RELATIVE STEP TWO: CONTACT THE JAIL STEP THREE SEND A FAX STEP FOUR: FAMILY ADVOCATE

If you have any difficulty with this process you can contact the following resources that are specifically available to assist families who have relatives with serious mental illnesses.

IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS

Bail: Think carefully about posting bail for your family member. No one wants a loved one to remain incarcerated for any length of time. It is an unpleasant experience for them as well as the family. However, you must ask yourself the following question. Will your family member be able to comply with the terms of the bail and appear in court when required? Also, as hard as it may seem, jail may be a safer place for a person with severe mental illness who is in crisis rather than having your loved one wander the streets with no help at all. At least in jail they will be fed, will have shelter, and be given access to medication treatments.

Working with an attorney: If your relative will be represented in court by a public defender, call the Public Defender’s office at the court where the case is being heard and ask for the name and phone number of the attorney who will be handling the case. If you do not reach the attorney, be sure to leave a message requesting a return call with your name, phone number, your family member’s name and, if possible, the case number (PFN) and court date. Due to the attorney-client confidentiality requirement, there will be information the attorney may not be able to share with you. Remember, it is your family member, not you, who is the attorney’s client.

Inform the attorney of your family member’s condition and any information that may be beneficial to the case. Provide the attorney with an extensive medical/psychiatric/social/educational history of your family member in writing. Include hospitalization, diagnosis information, medication treatment, and the contact information of those doctors/clinicians and of facilities that have treated your family member in the past. This information will be very useful in pursuing the best outcome for your loved one. Attorneys are extremely busy and many will appreciate written or faxed correspondence.

Public Defenders’ Offices in Alameda County:
Oakland 510-272-6600
Hayward 510-670-5000
Fremont 510-795-2600
Pleasanton 925-551-6863


Supporting and coping with a loved one who suffers from a mental illness can be extremely challenging and stressful. Knowledge, as well as your love and fortitude, will be essential in helping you to become a strong and effective support system for your family member. For information about support groups and educational programs provided free of charge in your area, contact any of the numbers listed above in Step Four or contact NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, at 213-632-0782 or on the internet at www.namicalifornia.org, or.

Note: This informational guide was adapted from a document written by NAMI volunteers based on their own personal experience to help families navigate the system, and edited for Alameda County by the CJMH program. . We are not attorneys, and this is not intended to be a substitute for professional legal advice. Please assist your family member in obtaining proper legal representation.
Updated April 16, 2008
NAMI Los Angeles Criminal Justice Committee

Edited August 26, 2009, BHCS Criminal Justice Mental Health Services