Facing arrest is difficult for obvious reasons, but what often gets overlooked is the suffering of those close to the defendant. Family members face fear, anxiety, anger and other difficult emotions when a loved one is arrested and incarcerated in jail or prison. The National Alliance on Mental Illness has provided some helpful guidelines for parents, siblings, spouses and others caught in this unfortunate situation.
You have the power to help
Some of most important issues you can help your loved one with include:
- Medication: Obtaining medication in jail is often trickier than it should be. Jail doctors may prescribe medication, but the risk of mistakes and delays is inherent in a bureaucratic system. If your loved one is dependent on life-saving medication, you should take a proactive role. You may have to contact his or her doctor to obtain a full and current list of medications.
- Going to court: As a family member, you can provide a much-needed show of support by attending your family member’s court hearings. Remember to be punctual, dress nicely and have transportation lined up for the occasion.
- Finding the right attorney: Conducting a search for a good attorney is difficult enough under normal circumstances. Trying to do so while behind bars is extremely difficult, which is why family members often take a leading role in this process. Vet the attorney thoroughly. Look into the law firm’s history, experience and record of success. If you are a parent helping out a college student who has run into trouble with the law, find an attorney with experience defending against college crimes such as drug offenses and sexual assault.
Remember, this is not a time to panic. Everyone must make good decisions going forward to eliminate the lasting damage of this incident. By supporting your family member fully, you can play a meaningful role in helping them through this difficult time.