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

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This document is a step-by-step guide to help families cope with the criminal justice system in Stanislaus County when a family member who suffers from a mental illness is arrested. This informational guide was written by NAMI volunteers based on their own personal experience in consultation with Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department, Behavioral Health and Recovery Services (BHRS) staff and staff from California Forensic Medical Group (CFMG) to help families navigate the forensic system. 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.


  • 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 county jail, remind him/her of the right to have an attorney present if being questioned by police officers or detectives.
  • If he/she is already at the Public Safety Center, men’s jail on H Street, or the women’s facility on E. Hackett Road, he/she will be screened for mental illness, as well as other health concerns, upon arrival. It is very important that they 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. If you do not know which facility the family member is being held check at the following website: , select “Who is in Jail?”, then click on this logo:


STEP TWO: CONTACT THE LOCAL JAIL                     

  • Call the facility that is holding your family member and ask for the Watch Commander (County Jail (CJ), 209-525-6427 or Safety Center (SC), 209-525-5630). Inform him that your family member suffers from a mental illness and describe the diagnosis and any other concerns you might have. Inquire as to your relative’s status and estimated length of stay at this facility. Ask if he/she is expected to be released directly from the city jail. If he/she is going to be released directly from the city 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 severely ill, ask if the city police could take him/her to a psychiatric hospital for a “5150” involuntary three-day hold for treatment and evaluation.
  • If your relative is not going to be released directly from the county jail, ask that he/she be transferred as quickly as possible to the Public Safety Center (PSC).
  • Be sure to get the following information:
  1. The expected date and time of departure to the Public Safety Center;
  2. the court arraignment date and address.

Medication will probably not be accessible until your relative arrives at the PSC, but you might inquire if the holding facility can obtain needed medication.



  • Upon arrival at the Safety Center.  Inquire as to your family member’s location (tower, floor and pod number) and, most importantly, his/her booking number. Female inmates are detained at the women’s facility onE. Hackett Road.  NOTE: This information is also available on the internet at , select “Who is in Jail?”, then click on this logo:


      Court dates for the current week are posted at Note this information for future reference.

  • 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.
  • Use the links on the web page to access visiting hours, inmate visitor request form, visiting rules, and frequently asked questions.

TIP: When visiting Public Safety Center, always bring a few quarters for a locker to store your personal belongings while you visit your family member. Photo ID is also required.


  • Click on the Inmate Medication Information Form, English Version or Spanish Version (available soon) on this web page. Print, complete, and fax as instructed below.

If this form is not available:

  • Immediately 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
    • Booking number
    • Location
  • The following information should be included in the body of the fax:
    • His/her diagnosis
    • His/her psychiatrist’s name, phone number, and address
    • The medications that are prescribed for your family member with the name(s), dosage, and time of day to be administered (NOTE: family member must voluntarily take medications – they will not be forced to take them)
    • Whether a particular medication has proven to be ineffective or has dangerous and/or uncomfortable side effects
    • 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 in Step Four to the number below. Faxes can be sent 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  The same fax number is used for both the Safety Center and jail.
    •  Public Safety Center
  • Fax for men and women: 209-525-5623 (209-525-5622 -Office)
  • Medical Services (209-525-4411)
  • Men’s Fax: 209-525-6495
  • Women’s Fax: 209-525-5673
  • 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 number.


  • The Mental Health Court Program is a specialty program for a small number of individuals who qualify.
  • For more information call the Mental Health Court Program of the Stanislaus County Department of Mental Health 209-558-4420 during regular business hours.
  • The client’s attorney or public defender usually makes the referral, and sometimes the judge.  However anyone can make a referral to the Mental Health Court team.  Remember criteria must be met and confidentiality may apply; information is protected. 
  • If your relative has a private attorney, contact him/her and ask that your relative be referred.  If your relative does not have an attorney, a public defender will be assigned at the arraignment, and you can ask the public defender to refer the case.  Keep in mind that certain criteria must be met and many cases do not fit the established criteria for Mental Health Court. 


  • If you have any difficulty with this process, call the Behavioral Health and Recovery Family Advocate, John Black, at 209-525-7368; the Peer Recovery Advocate, Tim White, at 209-525-7369; or Patients’ Rights, Teresa Alvarez at 209-525-7423 during regular business hours.
  • Don’t forget to provide your family member’s name, location, and booking number.


  • 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. Do not be afraid to use a public defender. Public defenders often have knowledge of the system as it pertains to those who need mental health services.
  • If 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 if they will take them voluntarily.

Working with an attorney:  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.  It is more likely the attorney will be at his or her desk in the morning between 8:00-8:30 a.m. before court begins or later in the afternoon after 3:30 p.m.  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 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.

For general information regarding criminal cases involving mental health issues, call the Public Defender’s Mental Health Branch at 209-525-4210.

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 Stanislaus (National Alliance on Mental Illness), at 209-558-4555, email, or on the internet at


Public Safety Center

200 East Hackett Road, Modesto, CA 95358

209-525-5630 (Office); 209-525-5673 (Medical Office)

209-525-5622 (Psychiatric Services Office); 209-525-5623 (Psychiatric Services Fax)

County Jail (Men’s)

805 12th Street, Modesto, CA 95354 

209-525-6427 (Office); 209-525-6495 (Medical Office); 209-525-4411 (Medical Fax)

Honor Farm (Requests processed through the Public Safety Center)

8224 W. Grayson Road; Modesto, CA 95358

209-538-2202 (Office); 209-541-2997 (Medical Fax)

Updated June 10, 2009

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