A practical guide on what to do if your family member or friend has been arrested in Santa Clara County, and has a mental health and/or addiction diagnosis.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 to be a substitute for professional legal advice.
- My family member has been arrested – What do I do?
- After Arrest – Booking and Intake
- Obtaining Inmate Information
- Useful County Jail Forms and Information Links
- Using the AB1424 Form
- Mental Health Screening in the Jail
- Sending Medical and/or Psychiatric Information to the Jail
- Legal Representation
- Attending Court Hearings
- Mental Health Court
- County Mental Health/Substance Abuse Criminal Justice Services
- General Legal Resources
- Family and Friends Support
- Legal Definitions and Glossary
Click on the links below for step-by-step guide on what to do when your loved one is arrested.
Guidance for family members in Spanish and Vietnamese from Santa Clara County Department of Correction:
- EN ESPAÑOL: Un familiar o amigo ha sido arrestado ¿Qué hago?
- Vietnamese: Thân nhân của tôi đã bị bắt – Tôi phải làm gì?
Click on the the text bars below to read more about each topic:
- When contacted by your loved one, stay calm and offer your support.
- Become informed about how people with mental illness are handled by the courts – Thoroughly review the information on this web page. If you have more specific questions about helping your arrested loved one/friend with a mental illness, you can contact the NAMI Helpline Help Desk at 408-453-0400 option 1 during NAMI office hours (Monday – Friday, 10 am – 6 pm)
- Obtain your family member/friend‘s booking number and PFN, to help you find out about their charges, jail location, and upcoming court hearings. If you speak with the inmate by phone, ask them to read the booking number printed on their wristband. (See the Obtaining County Jail Information section below). If they are released on their own recognizance, you can help them keep track of pending court dates. Whether they are released or remain in jail, you can plan on attending court hearings. (See the Attending Court Hearings section).
- Tell the family member/friend that a screening in Booking will be conducted for mental health issues, and that it is OK to discuss medical and mental health concerns with nursing and mental health staff. It is important that inmates feel safe to speak openly with these professionals. (See the Mental Health Screening in the Jail section).
- If release is unlikely to occur soon, and you are concerned about important information reaching jail Medical and/or Mental Health staff, you may complete an AB1424 or Inmate Medication Information Form. (See the Obtaining County Jail Information section below)
- Reassure your loved one of the right to legal representation. If they do not want or cannot afford a private attorney, they will be assigned a Public Defender, who is usually quite knowledgeable about mental health issues and Mental Health Court. If they still prefer a private lawyer. assist them in making contact with a lawyer who is familiar with mental health law and the Santa Clara County courts. (See the Legal Representation section)
- Having a loved one in jail can be stressful for family and friends. You may wish to attend a friends and family support group. The following group is specifically focused on people who have a loved one who has been arrested and are in jail and/or awaiting court hearings
* Read some valuable, practical advice from a Family Jail Support Group leader! Tips From Family Members of Persons Arrested
- If your family member/friend is being held in county jail, remind him/her of the right to have an attorney present if being questioned by police officers or detectives.
- Assure your family member/friend that it is OK to discuss his/her physical and mental condition, diagnosis, medications, etc., with the jail staff conducting the screening and assessment, which includes Custody Health Services nursing mental health staff.
- See the Obtaining County Jail Information section for instructions on how to provide jail medical and mental health personnel with your loved one’s history and current treatment information.
Once a person is screened, the jail Classification Unit evaluates where they should be housed in the jail, to provide for their safety in the “least restrictive environment”. Inmates identified with serious mental health symptoms may be housed in Special Management units (also known as “mental health housing”) at Elmwood or the Main Jail for closer supervision and treatment. Persons with acute mental health symptoms who require immediate intervention and meet criteria for an involuntary 72-hour psychiatric hold will be housed in the LPS-designated unit in the Main Jail, also known as the 8A unit. If your loved one’s current mental health seems stable, he or she may be recommended for housing in a general population unit. If your loved one has chronic symptoms, a pattern of self-harm behavior, and/or you have concerns for his or her well-being due to ongoing mental health issues, you may decide to advocate for them to be transferred to a Special Management unit by providing CHS staff with his or her treatment history and, if needed, by requesting a mental health evaluation. Again, see the Sending Medical and/or Psychiatric Information to the Jail section for instructions. However, please note that the classification unit may require your loved one to be housed in a housing unit compatible with security level or other custody reason which may override the request for Special Management housing by mental health staff.
Think carefully about posting bail for your family member. No one wants a loved one to remain incarcerated for any length of time, as it is an unpleasant experience for them as well as the family. But ask yourself the following question: Will your family member be able to comply with the terms of bail and appear in court when required? Also, as hard as it may seem, jail can be a safer place for a person with severe mental illness who is in crisis, especially if the alternative is that they wander the streets with no help at all. In jail they will at least have food and shelter, and be given access to medication and other mental health treatment.
Misdemeanor and Felony Case Process
The Santa Clara County Superior Court Self-Help website offers information on how Misdemeanor and Felony criminal cases are handled in the Courts. Refer to these pages for more specific information, but be aware that they do not mention how defendants may be referred to Mental Health Court.
- Search online via the Online Inmate Locator (After entering the person’s name and DOB or Arrest Date, you will find their PFN, location, and date of next court hearing.)
- Call the jail’s administrative booking unit, (408) 299-2305. Please note that this line is very busy so be patient.
- Visit the administrative booking office at 885 North San Pedro Street, San Jose, CA 95110. The office is open to the public 5 a.m. to 2 a.m., seven days a week.
The AB1424 Form, jointly developed by NAMI SCC and the County of Santa Clara for use by family members in providing mental health information to authorities when their loved one is held involuntarily, can be completed and given to either:
- In jail, to the Custody Health Services staff
- If a Public Defender is assigned, to the Public Defender’s Office
- If you are going to court, to the Public Defender/private attorney, District Attorney and/or Presiding Judge.
This form is an extremely useful tool for informing legal authorities about an inmate’s mental health issues and history. In filling out the form, we recommend you be concise and stick to factual information. You may also want to include a document listing a recent psychiatric diagnosis from a doctor or medical facility (such as on discharge paperwork). Family members communicating to a judge, District Attorney or Public Defender may complete and submit (or bring to court) the AB1424 form and/or the simpler Family Input Form. * Visit the AB1424 Form website page for more information and downloadable copies of these forms in English and (for the AB1424 From) in other languages.
- Inmates who have been identified as having previously received psychiatric service in the community, and who request continuation of services.
- Inmates who are interested in receiving psychiatric care while in custody without previous psychiatric care in the community.
- Inmates who, after being assessed by Medical staff, are believed to require psychiatric services while in custody.
- Patients in crisis are seen immediately and other patients are seen in as timely a fashion as possible.
Mental health services include:
- Assessment of immediate mental health and psychosocial needs
- Medication evaluation/management
- Supportive and crisis counseling
- Development of appropriate treatment plans
- Individual and group therapy
- Collateral contacts with family, attorneys, and others involved in discharge planning
- Development of appropriate discharge plans
- Referrals to community-based services and other resources
Mental health services are available to all inmates, but certain services, like group therapy, may be limited to specific housing units that offer treatment services. Psychiatric clinic services are available several days per week, and medication may be prescribed. Short term crisis intervention is available, and may be requested by any jail staff member or by the inmate. Discharge planning and case management is also provided to inmates who require these services.
- Download the AB1424 Form and/or Inmate Medication Information Form. Print the form and fill it out.
- Add a cover letter that includes the following identifying information:
- Full legal name
- Date of Birth
- Booking Number
- On the cover letter, request that the attached form(s) be included in their record. Also, indicate whether your relative/friend has provided you with a written confidentiality waiver (if not, request that they be asked to sign one while in jail. The Custody Health Services staff is prohibited by law from giving anyone information about a client’s status unless they have the client’s consent, but they can receive information from relatives or friends without the client’s consent. The rest of the fax will either be the completed Inmate Medication Information Form, or else a written summary the following information:
- His/her diagnosis
- His/her psychiatrist’s name, phone number and address
- Prescribed medication (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
- 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.
- Your relative/friend’s 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/friend’s condition and may not necessarily prescribe exactly the same medications.
- Keep a copy of this fax for future reference.
- Send the AB1424 or Inmate Medication Information Form to the Jail Custody Mental Health Services through email or Fax
- Email: Olivia.Fojas@hhs.sccgov.org
- Fax: Faxes can be sent 24 hours a day, seven days a week. * Be sure to note on the fax paperwork: Attn: Olivia Fojas. (The Jail Custody Mental Health Services manager who will ensure the form goes to the correct location).
- Jail Custody Mental Health Services: Email Olivia Fojas at Olivia.Fojas@hhs.sccgov.org (preferred) or Fax to (408) 808-5236, Attention: Olivia Fojas
(*Please note: Custody Mental Health Services staff do not have the resources to call or email you back to confirm receipt of these forms)
If you don’t know your loved one’s mental health information, you can also ask their psychiatrist to contact the jail. They can use the Inmate Medical Information Form to provide this information. Although there’s no privacy law restricting a medical professional from sharing information with jail staff, some will refuse. If that happens, you should make contact with your family member’s doctor. It is best to do this in writing and then follow up with a phone call. This will ensure a written record of your request. Your request should be to the point and include:
- Your loved one’s diagnosis
- The type of medication
- Contact information for their doctor
- Your contact information
Ways to Immediately Contact Jail Medical and Mental Health Staff
(Please note that the Mental Health and Medical services are separate departments within Custody Health Services, and that contact numbers may differ depending on whether someone is at Elmwood or the Mail Jail).
if you have inmate related Mental Health concerns, and want to talk to someone via phone, you can call the:
- Behavioral Health Care Program Services Manager (for both Main Jail & Elmwood): (408) 808-5220 or
- *New*Main jail: Email Chris Engelstad at Chris.Engelstad@hhs.sccgov.org
- *New*ELmwood/CCW: Email Kathryn Parlet at Kathryn.Parlet@hhs.sccgov.org
if you have inmate related Medical concerns, and want to talk to someone via phone, you can call (ask to speak to a shift Supervisor or Charge Nurse):
- Elmwood Jail (Nurse/records) : (408) 957-5339
- Main Jail: Charge Nurse Desk – (408) 808-5229. Medical Records Desk – (408) 808-5200
If you urgently need to contact jail staff (i.e., you feel your loved one is in immediate danger), you can call the Jail Crisis Lines:
- Elmwood: (408) 934-5137
- Main Jail: (408) 808-5221
- A Public Defender will be assigned at the first court hearing (the “arraignment”), if your relative does not have or cannot afford a private attorney. * Note that the Public Defender’s Office does not become the attorney of record until they are appointed or referred by the judge at the arraignment hearing.
- If a private attorney is not retained, the case will be referred to either the Santa Clara County Public Defender, the Alternate Defender or Independent Defender Office, and another court date will be set for the attorney of record to appear.
- If the Public Defender’s Office (PDO) accepts the appointment, the client will be seen by a representative of the Public Defender’s office for an interview.
- As attorney communications with a client are confidential, the assigned Public Defender must obtain a release from their client in order to provide information to the family. The decision whether or not to communicate to third parties is the attorney’s decision, even after a release is signed, as their decisions are based on what they have determined is in the best interest the client.
- Nevertheless, the Public Defender’s Office (PDO) normally appreciates any information you can provide on your loved one’s mental health history and anything else that can assist them in obtaining the best outcome. You can offer a lot of information in a concise format via the AB1424 Form.
Contacting the Public Defender
After arraignment, you can 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. Some tips:
- The attorney is most likely to be at their 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 the attorney doesn’t answer, leave a message requesting a return call, and include your name, phone number, family member’s name and, if possible, the case number and court date.
- Due to attorney-client confidentiality, the attorney may not be able to share all information with you. Remember, it is your family member, not you, who is the attorney’s client.
- When you reach the attorney, inform them of your family member’s condition and any information that may be beneficial to the case. You will want to provide them with a complete medical/psychiatric/social/educational history of your family member in writing, including hospitalizations, diagnosis, medications, and associated facility/doctor/clinician contact information. (You can offer to fax an AB1424 Form containing this information).
- Attorneys are extremely busy and many will appreciate written or faxed correspondence.
The PDO Mental Health Unit
If you are having trouble contacting your loved one’s public defender (who may be in court, or working on many other cases), you can contact the PDO (Public Defenders Office) Mental Health Unit. Be aware that the PDO Mental Health Unit receives an enormous number of phone calls from clients and their families each day. If you do call, you can expect to hear back within two business days.
PDO Mental Health Contacts:
- Mental Health Paralegal, PDO: Mairead O’Keefe– Email: Mairead.O’Keefe@pdo.sccgov.org
- Social Workers, PDO: Phone: (408) 299-7797. Fax: (408) 938-1106 You can contact any one of the PD Mental Health Social Workers below:
Here is some more information from the Public Defenders Office:
- Public Defenders Office Mental Health FAQs
- Public Defenders Office “Client with Mental Health Issues” web page
Hiring a Private Lawyer
There may be some situations in which hiring a private attorney is necessary. If you are facing serious, complex criminal charges or a lawsuit, for example, such a lawyer can help you understand the specific legal issues of your case. Persons who have the financial means to hire an attorney may be denied a Public Defender. If you or a family member with mental health challenges are facing criminal charges and decide to retain a private attorney, be sure to select one who is well versed in helping people with mental illness. They should understand the mental health services and options available in the Santa Clara County court system, including Mental Health Court. If they do not have this knowledge and experience, ask them to consult with the Office of the Public Defender. They are usually willing to help private attorneys understand how to best defend people with mental illness in the Santa Clara County courts.
Private Legal Services
Lawyer Referral Services or 408-971-6822 – Provided by the Santa Clara County Bar Association, this service can help match you with qualified, pre-screened attorneys who can meet your specific needs. You will receive a free 30-minute consultation. If you then choose to hire that person or another attorney via the service, you pay a small, non-refundable administration fee.
Pro Bono Project of Silicon Valley or 800-552-5271 – Provides free legal help for low income persons in civil law matters. The project can take or assist with cases in family law, consumer law, and federal litigation. (*Note: They do not take criminal cases).
Sackett & Associates or 800-913-3000 – Handle Social Security Disability claims (SSI and SSDI), including applications and appeals to denied applications. Spanish speaking assistance available.
Attending Court Hearings
After the initial arraignment hearing, you may want to attend your loved one or friend’s other court hearings, to offer support and/or to provide your input to the judge and District Attorney. This way, you may have an opportunity to explain how their mental health issues contributed to their arrest and how they might mitigate the legal consequences. You can find out when the next court hearing will occur by accessing the online Santa Clara County Courts Inmate Locator. Tips for attending court hearings:
- If possible, consult with your loved one’s attorney before going to the hearing. You can try sending a copy of the AB1424 Form to the attorney prior to the hearing.
- When attending court, dress in business-like attire and be well prepared to address the judge.
- Bring a friend with you for moral support. It can be especially helpful to bring someone who has experience advocating for their own loved ones in court.
- Complete the AB1424 Form and/or the Family Input Form, and bring 3 copies to the hearing. * Be as brief and concise on the AB1424 as possible, and add a cover letter explaining in your own words that you believe your loved one needs treatment rather than jail time, and that what you are hoping the court will decide (such as that you would like to see their case assigned to Mental Health Court). If you do not have time or ability to complete the AB1424 Form, you can alternatively complete and bring the Family Input Form (which is both simple and concise) to court. The Family Input Form can also be used as the cover page for the AB1424. Give these documents to the Bailiff upon entering the court room, and request that one copy each go to the Public Defender, District Attorney and Presiding Judge.
- The District Attorney has enormous influence on decisions made in the case. If you have the chance to speak the him or her before or after a hearing, do so in a respectful and collaborative manner.
- If you haven’t yet requested that your loved one or friend be referred to Mental Health Court, and you think they may qualify, you can do so now to the Public Defender, DA, and/or to the Judge.
Santa Clara County Reentry Services
151 West Mission Street, San Jose, CA 95110
San Jose – Phone: (408) 535-4299 Tu/Th 5-8pm & First Sat 8am-12pm (Client Service triage & information only)
Gilroy – (408) 201-0690 Tu/Th 8am-5pm (Limited Client registration & service). Call for more information.
The Reentry Resource Center is an excellent program that provides services and support to currently and formerly incarcerated Santa Clara County residents, including referrals to mental health and/or substance use treatment. Its mission is to reduce recidivism by using evidence-based practices in implementing a seamless system of services, supports, and supervision. For update due to covid changes, go HERE
To apply for services (*Note: To qualify for Reentry Services, you must be a resident of Santa Clara County and a current inmate, or a former inmate who has been released within the past 12 months):
- Current Inmates – Ask for an “Inmate Request Form”, and check the box for “Reentry Resource Center.”
- Former Inmates – Once released from custody, call or go directly to the Reentry Resource Center during business hours (M-F, 8 am – 5 pm). If possible, bring:
- ID/Social Security Card
- Proof of residency in Santa Clara County
- Income verification
- Probation/parole/court release docs
- Referral for mental health and/or substance use treatment services
- Public benefit enrollment (Medi-Cal, Cal Fresh & General Assistance)
- Reentry Mobile Medical Unit
- Resource navigation from peer support and community health workers
- Expungement (record clearing)
- Child Support Services
- Housing/shelter information
Possible referrals to:
- Employment or vocation training
- Family reunification
- Legal services
- Health & well-being
Sobering Center Brochure
The Santa Clara County Faith Reentry Collaborative is a network of multi-faith religious institutions, community organizations, and volunteers established to provide transitional services to newly released inmates. We offer hope, compassion, forgiveness, trust, and accountability together with immediate and long-term support to individuals and their families as they return to the community from incarceration. Partners are:
Bible Way Christian Center
2090 Oakland Road, San Jose, CA 95131
Office: (408) 571-2222 x18
After Hours: (408) 599-8989
Bridges of Hope
Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph
80 S. Market St., San Jose, CA 95113
Office: (408) 582-3306
After Hours: (408) 528-4003
Good Samaritan Project
Cathedral of Faith
2315 Canoas Garden Ave, San Jose, CA 95125
Office: (408) 979-3043
After Hours: (408) 590-7152
Maranatha Christian Center
1811 South 7th Street, San Jose, CA 95112
Office: (408) 280-0145
After Hours: (408) 449-4064
- Connection to Spiritual Community
- Education Guidance
- Recovery Program
- Family Support
Evans Lane Wellness and Recovery Center
2090 Evans Lane, San Jose, CA 95125
Phone: (408) 793-2400
Note: Must have a referral from one of the following organizations: Gardner, Community Solutions, Catholic Charities, Probation Department, Parole, and Drug Treatment Court
Evans Lane Wellness and Recovery Center is dedicated to serving adults who suffer from mental health illness, substance abuse issues, and involvement in the criminal justice system. The Center provides both transitional housing, and a separate outpatient program. The philosophy of the Center is grounded in the Wellness and Recovery Model which supports recovery by enabling consumers to take responsibility for their lives, enhancing their self-sufficiency, developing their abilities and confidence, enhancing their support network, assisting them in finding meaningful roles, in the community, mitigating health and behavior risks, and teaching them to manage their mental illness through a Wellness and Recovery Action Plan.
- Outpatient Program
- Clinical managers work with participants to provide individualized treatment plans, which include individualized and/or group therapy
- Clients are coached and encouraged to establish themselves back into society with the proper tools and resources.
- Psychiatrists, clinical managers and community workers work in collaboration with the participant to provide proper psychiatric assessments, comprehensive case management services, medication management and to serve as representatives for the client’s legal issues.
- Residential Program
- Provides housing, support and care to the criminal justice population
- Provides up to 56 participants extended housing for up to one year
- Provides 24 hour support, peer support, group counseling, and group activities.
- Program supports the participants by providing evening and weekend group activities, which are focused on integrating the participants into the community.
Mental Health Assessment Team (MHAT)
Drug and Mental Health Treatment Court, Department 61
201 N. 1st Street, San Jose, CA 95113
Phone: (408) 491-4700
THE MHAT provides engagement and assessment services to clients both incarcerated and those present at the Superior Court. Clinicians refer and/or connect the client to community resources to assist in the client’s successful transition from the jail to the community. They provide culturally competent services to both clients and their families and are able to educate the clients and families about relapse prevention (Spanish speaking services are available).
Other Outside Inmate Assistance
Catholic Charities Adult Inmate Supportive Services – Contact: Kent Wanke, Program Manager, Phone: (408) 325-5147, Email: email@example.com.
The Inmate Supportive Services (ISS) at the two adult correctional facilities (Main and Elmwood Jails) respond to inmate requests for books, eye glasses, notary services, probation-required legal documents, requests for family contacts, family requests for information or items for the inmates, information from community/other legal services and resource information. The ISS staff members have regular schedules at the respective jail sites to respond to inmate and Corrections Officers requests. Volunteers are critical to the success of the ISS services.
NAMI Santa Clara Helpline/Help Desk
The NAMI SCC Helpline/Help Desk has trained and knowledgeable volunteers who offer free and confidential information, referral and support services to individuals, family and friends who have been affected by mental illness, including those whose loved ones are in the jail/court system. Call 408-453-0400 x1 Mon – Fri, 10 am – 6 pm /Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Support Groups for Family/Friends with Incarcerated Loved Ones who have a Mental Illness:
* Note: During Coronavirus shelter-in-place, the following group currently meets online only, every WEDNESDAY 6-7:30 pm. To register, at least 2 hours prior to group start time, go to https://bit.ly/1w-jcs-fsg
Support Groups for Family/Friends with Loved Ones with Mental Illness:
Attending Family support groups is a great way to get advise and inputs from other families who are experiencing similar challenges caused by mental health conditions. You can find the current list of local family support groups in Current NAMI Resource Guide.
Current NAMI Resource Guide – Click on the current Resource Guide, which has a list of NAMI and other Family Support Groups on pages 2 & 3. Look for classes under the headings ” Family/Friends” or ” Consumer and Family/Friends”. NAMI Family support groups are offered in English, Spanish, Korean and Mandarin.
Organization Offering Family Mental Health Peer Support Services:
Santa Clara County Office of Family Affairs – Call 408-792-2166 The Office of Family Affairs assists families in navigating the Santa Clara County behavioral health system of care, and have an understanding of the other County systems, such as the Jail and Mental Health Court. They offer direct support, information and education with the goal of providing recovery and hope. You can also email specific family peer support worker: Juan Perez, Mental Health Peer Support Worker, Family WRAP® Group Facilitator en Español, Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Services Department, Office of Family Affairs, E-mail: email@example.com
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