One of the most important and absolutely crucial things you can do for a loved one who has a serious mental illness and has been incarcerated is keep detailed and accurate records of all attempts you make to secure them proper care.
Buy a day planner if you must just for this purpose. Detail in each days entry fields exactly who you talked too, what is their position, what was discussed and did it lead anywhere. Keep track of days your loved one received medications and keep an open line of contact to any changes made to their prescriptions. Write everything down.
Make notes of where your loved one is housed. Keep track of days they are in medical or any other specialized housing due to their specialized needs. Documenting these experiences helps you keep an exact timeline of your loved ones incarceration.
Any requests you make to jails or prisons for changes to your loved ones care should be put in writing. Adhere to this, if you request information and they deny you it, make them write down why and sign it. If they deny your request for medications, doctors or any other provision you feel is for the safety or survival of your loved one make them write down if they will or won’t comply and any reasons they will not. This was information given to me by Disability Rights in Florida. Make sure all requests are in writing, and keep these records, should you need to persue a civil rights case against the facility caring for your loved one.
If you feel you are being ignored, you can always send certified mail to the facility. You can send certified mail to the sheriff, the warden, mental health board, your loved ones physician, your loved ones lawyer, the governor and state senator or representatives and mark each letter with the CC information reflecting that you wrote to several people. Especially if you feel your loved ones life is in danger due to not receiving either medication or psychiatric services. Make it clear you feel their life is in danger and that you will persue a civil rights case should your loved one be harmed due to their neglect or disregard of your written concerns.
If visitations are revoked at anytime, make them give you a written reason. Tell them you are documenting your loved ones stay in their facility for legal reasons and that should he or she suffer death or injury due to his or her specialized medical needs you will most definitely persue a wrongful death lawsuit. I always take this opportunity to educate anyone about the dangers of suicide related to SMI reminding them that unmedicated, my loved one, has a 10%-17% death rate due to suicide alone. Not giving him the medicine he needs to remain stable is in direct conflict to keeping him safe due to his specific SMI, schizophrenia. Should anything happen to him, the facility will be held liable.
Make sure that your loved ones legal counsel has a copy of any diagnosis papers and especially those that contain any treatment plans. These are mandated care. Make sure you let the facility housing your loved one know that you have provided a copy of that treatment plan to your loved ones lawyer.
Take the time to document as much as you possibly can. Hopefully you will never need to use this information for anything other than personal purposes. There are instances where the SMI do die while incarcerated, and should that happen and the jail is at fault for neglecting your loved ones medical needs, your records will be invaluable. Serious mental illnesses are brain diseases. They are the result of medical, biological differences within the sufferers brains. It is not just a matter of “mental health awareness”.
These people have legitimate diseases that affect all aspects of their lives. When a facility takes this person into their care they assume a tremendous amount of specialized responsibility. It is your role, as advocate on the outside, to ensure that they meet that specialized responsibility by providing for your loved ones unique medical needs.
“You only have the rights you are willing to fight for”