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Is Your Loved One With Mental Illness Being Held In a Local County Jail?

Having a loved one living with mental illness arrested is scary and overwhelming. Family or friends need to become advocates to ensure that a mental health screening, medication, and treatment are provided. And they must speak out, if that doesn’t happen.

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Do you have a loved one experiencing mental illness in a Texas county jail?

Here is list of first steps to take to advocate for your loved one’s safety and health.*

1. Hand deliver, fax or email a letter asking for your loved one to be screened for placement in a mental health unit and/or examined by the provider of psychiatric services.

2. Inform the person’s psychiatrist, case manager, or other service provider on the outside that he or she is in jail, and ask them to contact the jail regarding treatment plan.

3. Call jail medical staff or administrator to follow up about the mental health history, and politely stress the importance of what medications and continued treatment your loved one needs. You may be told they can’t talk to you due to privacy laws/HIPPA. In that case, see our page about how to get a medical release.

4. Look for Mental Health Courts in your area by searching on your county’s website. If a mental health court is available, let the attorney know that you would like the case brought before this court.

5. Contact your Local Mental Health Authority (LMHA). Search for the LMHA closest to the jail on this list. A 24 hour referral line is available specific to your location. LMHAs sometimes offer pre-trial services.

6. If your loved one is not receiving the treatment needed, or is experiencing neglect or abuse, fill out a complaint with the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. More information on filing complaints can be found here.

*Thank you to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and Schizophrenia.com.

Texas Jail Project has more information on the front page about people who are found incompetent to stand trail. Or click on How to File A Writ of Habeas Corpus In Incompetency Cases

Leave a phone message for us at (512) 469-7665 or email us at info@texasjailproject.org if you believe your loved one is not receiving proper medical care and/or nutrition, or if you have questions about navigating the justice system. Also you can directly complain to the Jail Commission. Our website has info and a link to the online form where you can report concerns and complaints.

If you yourself have experienced mental health issues while in a county jail, Texas Jail Project wants to know about the conditions and any problems you might have had or observed.

We know that some people don’t know where to report the problems and others who are afraid to report. We are glad to listen and will also tell your story, if you grant us permission. We can also record what happened without your name being involved. Also, please let us know about any jail where a pregnant woman receives good health care and is treated well!

Our Work on Behalf of Detainees with Mental Health Issues


  • Kevin Garrett Joins Texas Jail Project – Texas Jail Project is proud to announce that the Hogg Foundation is funding a two-year Peer Policy Fellowship at TJP! Great news for our advocacy for people experiencing mental illness/substance abuse issues and involved in the criminal justice system! The Hogg Foundation is funding a position for “a Peer Policy Fellow who brings direct experience into the conversations about mental health, addiction, and criminal justice reform.” The mentor will be the renowned Dr. Lynda Frost, formerly associate director of the Hogg Foundation. With this position, our work and the lived experience of a peer policy fellow will advance important issues and increase awareness of stakeholders and the public.

Information for Media

Recent News

Fox News 7 interview with Texas Jail Project Executive Director Diana Claitor

Essential Reading

  • (2016 November). Preventable Tragedies: How to Reduce Mental Health-Related Deaths in Texas Jails.  UT Civil Rights Clinic. – This important report profiles several cases Texas Jail Project worked on and contains an interview with Director Diana Claitor. The policy recommendations were helpful to lawmakers in passing legislation during the recent session in early 2017, although many of the strongest measures in the Sandra Bland Act were dropped, disappointing her family and many advocates.

Texas Jail Project Articles