My Family Member Has Been Arrested - What Do I Do?
Below is a step-by-step guide to help families cope with the criminal justice system in San Bernardino County when a family member who suffers from a brain disorder (mental illness) is arrested.
STEP ONE: SUPPORT YOUR RELATIVE
If your family member/friend calls you and says that he/she has been arrested, help him/her stay calm and offer your help and support.
If your family member/friend is being held in a jail facility, remind him/her of the right to have an attorney present if being questioned by police officers or detectives.
It is very important that arrestee's be direct and honest to benefit as much as possible from this screening process. Assure your family member that it is OK to discuss his/her physical and mental condition, diagnosis, medications, etc., with the staff conducting the screening, which includes Sheriff's nursing staff and Jail Mental Health Service staff. It is important your family member feels safe to speak openly with the mental health screeners.
STEP TWO: COUNTY JAIL INFORMATION
Upon arrival at the West Valley Detention Center or other jail facility, you can use the Inmate Locator to find your family member/friend and where they are housed. You will be able to obtain information on your family member's location (unit, cell block, bunk) and, most importantly, his/her booking number. If you are unsuccessful in finding them on the locator, please call the Public Information number at (909) 350-2476.
TIP: Inmates are sometimes booked in with/without middle name. If you are unable to locate him/her, try any names your relative has used.
STEP THREE: SEND A FAX
Click on the Inmate Medication Information Form, English Version or Spanish Version on this web page. Print, complete, and fax as instructed below.
If this form is not available:
Prepare a fax requesting that your relative be screened for placement in the mental health unit. Begin this fax with your relative's:
Full legal name
Date of birth
In the body of the fax include:
His/her psychiatrist's name, phone number, and address
The medications that are prescribed for your family member by name, dosage, and time of day to be administered
Whether a particular medication has proven to be ineffective or has dangerous and/or uncomfortable side effects
Has your loved one had any history of suicide attempts/threats or other violent intentions in the recent past? Briefly describe the events and when they occurred.
Any other urgent medical conditions that might require immediate attention, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, seizures, heart problems, etc., and medications currently prescribed for those conditions. Include his/her medical doctor's name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. The medical information you provide is tremendously valuable in making an assessment and will help the mental health staff select the best treatment for your relative. There is a clear preference for maintaining effective current treatment. However, the Jail Mental Health staff must conduct its own assessment of your relative's condition and may not necessarily prescribe exactly the same medications.
IMPORTANT: Do NOT address any impending charges against your family member in this fax. Medical information only!
Keep a copy of this fax for future reference. If your family member is transferred to a different facility, you will need to fax this information again.
On the cover page, indicate whether your relative has provided you with a written confidentiality waiver. If your relative has not previously done so, ask that he/she be asked to sign one while in jail. The Jail Mental Health staff is prohibited by law from giving anyone information about a client's status unless they have the client's consent, but the staff can receive information from relatives or friends without the client's consent.
Once your relative has been booked, fax the document described above to the appropriate numbers below. Faxes can be sent 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Jail Mental Health Service Fax Numbers:
Medical Fax: (909) 463-5180
Mental Health Fax: (909) 463-5233
Please note that the Jail Mental Health Service and Sheriff's Medical Services are separate departments. Important medical information should be faxed to the medical fax number above.
REMEMBER: If you are sending mental health information only, please fax to Jail Mental Health Services at the mental health fax number above. If you are sending both mental health and medical information, you must fax the information to the Jail Mental Health Service number and the Sheriff's Medical Services number.
STEP FOUR: FAMILY ADVOCATE
If you have any difficulty with this process, call the Department of Mental Health Family Advocate at (909) 421-9388 during regular business hours.
Don't forget to provide your family member's name, location, and booking number.
STEP FIVE: DECIDING ON LEGAL REPRESENTATION
Your family member may want to retain a private attorney or use the Public Defender’s Office. A public defender will be assigned at arraignment if your relative does not have or cannot afford a private attorney. Public defenders have specialized knowledge in the field of criminal defense. Public Defenders are receiving training on the identification and treatment of the mentally ill. The attorney's in the Public Defender's office should be provided with the client's medical and mental health history at the earliest opportunity to assist in preparation of the defense case.
If you or your family member decides to retain a private attorney, be sure to select one that is well versed in helping people with mental illness and understands how to access the treatment facilities and mental health services that are available.
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: Public defenders are extremely busy and do not have much time for phone calls. They will appreciate written or faxed correspondence. Remember, it is the inmate, not you, who is his client. A private attorney will grant you more time, but remember you are paying for that access. Provide the attorney with an extensive medical/psychiatric/social/educational history of your family member in writing. This information will be very useful in pursuing the best outcome for your loved one.
Supporting and coping with a loved one who suffers from a brain disorder 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 NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, at 909-985-7705 or on the Internet at: