Family Member has been Arrested in Marin County
What do I do?
A step-by-step guide to help families cope with the criminal justice system in Marin 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 they have been arrested, help them stay calm and let them know you are there to help.
· If your relative is being held in Jail remind them that they have a right to have an attorney present if being questioned by police officers or detectives.
· They can expect to be interviewed by a Jail Mental Health Worker and that it is OK for them to discuss their physical and mental condition, diagnosis, medications, etc. with the worker. It is important they feel safe to speak openly with the mental health screeners.
STEP TWO: CONTACT THE JAIL
· Call the Marin County Medical Jail Services staff at 415-499-6291 and fax an Inmate Mental Health Information Form to them right away at 415-473-2399. It is very important that this form is faxed. Be sure to keep a copy of your faxed information.
· Call the Marin County Jail Prisoner Services at 415-473-7268, and ask for the Duty Sergeant or for a booking deputy who is a CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) trained member. Notify the person you speak to that your family member suffers from a mental illness and describe the diagnosis and any other concerns you might have. Inquire as to their status and length of stay at the jail. Ask if he/she is expected to be released on a PTA (Promise to Appear) from Jail. If he/she is going to be released right away from the Jail (this sometimes occurs for minor offenses), ask for the time and place so you can be there to pick them up.
· If your relative is not going to be released from Jail on a Promise to Appear, ask for the next court date and location. Additional information can be found on the recorded line: 415-499-6653. You may also go to the Marin County Sheriff’s website for more information.
· Medication needs will be evaluated during the booking process. Medical staff will verify your relative’s doctor and prescriptions being taken. Once verification is made, your relative will receive the appropriate medication while in jail. Ask if your relative has been able to provide the doctor’s name and list of medications to jail staff. You will assist your relative to receive medications in a timely manner by providing this information to jail staff or the jail nurse. See the Inmate Mental Health Information Form mentioned above.
STEP THREE: DECIDING ON LEGAL REPRESENTATION
· Your family member may want to retain a private attorney or use the Public Defenders Office. A Public Defender will be assigned at arraignment if your relative does not have or cannot afford a private attorney. You may call the Public Defender’s Office at 415-499-6321.
· If your family member decides to retain a private attorney, be sure to find one that is well versed in helping people with mental illness and understands not only the law, but 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 wandering 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. This written information will be very useful in pursuing the best outcome for your loved one. The Inmate Mental Health Information Form referred to above may be useful.
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 key 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 (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) at 1-800-950-6264 on the internet at www.nami.org. In Marin County, contact NAMI Marin at 415-444-0480 or by e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.
This informational guide was written by NAMI volunteers based on their own personal experience to help families navigate the system. We are not attorneys, and this is not intended as a substitute for professional legal advice.
Please assist your family member in obtaining proper legal representation.
FOR FAMILY MEMBERS WHO NEED TO CONNECT WITH LOVED ONES IN JAIL