top of page

Handling the arrest of a loved one

My family member has been arrested in San Francisco – What do I do?


Here is a step-by-step guide to when a family member who suffers from a brain disorder (mental illness) is arrested in the City and County of San Francisco.


STEP 1.    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 at a district police station, 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 San Francisco County Jail Intake and Release Center at 425 7th Street, 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 nursing staff and Jail Psychiatric Service staff.  It is important your family member feels safe to speak openly with the mental health screeners.


STEP 2.    Contact the Sheriff’s Department

Call the public information number (415) 553-1430 to find out if your loved one is in jail.

Or use the Sheriff’s Department webpage to determine if and where a loved one is in custody, the charges against them, and other important information.


STEP 3.    Send a Fax

Immediately prepare a fax requesting that your relative be screened for placement in the mental health unit.  Download and complete the Inmate Medication Information Form here.  Print, and fax as instructed below.


If this form is not available, follow the instructions below.


Begin this fax with your relative’s:

  1. Full legal name

  2. Date of birth

  3. Social Security Number

  4. In the body of the fax include:

  5. His/her diagnosis

  6. His/her psychiatrist’s name, phone number, and address

  7. The medications prescribed for your family member by name, dosage, and time of day to be administered

  8. Report whether a particular medication has proven to be ineffective or has dangerous and/or uncomfortable side effects

  9. Report any history of suicide attempts/threats or other violent intentions in the recent past.  Briefly describe the events and when they occurred

  10. 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 Psychiatric Service 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.

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 Psychiatric Service 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.


Fax the document to the numbers below.  Faxes can be sent twenty-four (24) hours a day, seven days a week.


  • SF County Jail Psychiatric Service Staff is Fax #415-734-3216

  • Jail Classification FAX:  (415) 575-6362



STEP 4.    County Jail Information
Use the links at to access visiting hours, telephone numbers, mailing addresses, and frequently asked questions.

bottom of page