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NAMI PA Main Line Criminal Justice Information


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This deck provides information on how to deal with the criminal justice system in southeastern PA, USA, when you have a mental ill loved one.

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NAMI PA Main Line Criminal Justice Information

  1. 1. Created 2013 Helping Individuals with Mental Illness to Avoid or Deal with the Criminal Justice System Presented by NAMI PA, Main Line, an affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Please view the final slide for NAMI PA, Main Line contact information and the link to a printable document with additional information.
  2. 2. Information is provided in three sections: • Preventing Arrest • Criminal Justice System procedures and advice • Resources for people in the Philadelphia metropolitan area ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ This information is not legal advice. A person who is in police custody should get the services of a criminal lawyer (see slide 9).
  3. 3. Preventing Arrest • Avoid arrest by arranging for crisis intervention, ongoing treatment, or court- ordered emergency treatment before the situation escalates to necessitate police involvement. • If you fear there may be a crisis, it is helpful to notify the police in advance that a household includes a person with a mental illness, so the police can respond to an emergency in an informed manner (see slide 13).
  4. 4. Preventing Arrest --Treatment • Programs such as assertive community treatment (PACT) can help to prevent relapse and mental health crises and thus reduce the risk of arrest. • Many resources for finding treatment are described in “How to Get Services” and “Resources for People with Mental Illness” available at
  5. 5. • During a mental health crisis call 911 only if there is immediate danger of physical harm. • Otherwise you may reduce the risk that a crisis will result in arrest by calling the county crisis line which has staff 24/7 who can assess the situation, arrange for an in-person evaluation and/or make referrals as needed. • Crisis line phone numbers for the greater Philadelphia area are available at: Preventing Arrest --Crisis Intervention
  6. 6. Preventing Arrest -- Court-Ordered Treatment • When an individual has a life-threatening psychiatric emergency but is unwilling to consent to treatment, state law authorizes court-ordered treatment without the individual’s consent. – Inpatient = involuntary commitment – Outpatient = assisted outpatient treatment • For more information go to: or
  7. 7. Preventing Arrest – Mental Health Advance Directives • An Advance Directive allows a person with mental illness to indicate his/her treatment preferences and designate a Power of Attorney for health care who can be authorized to make treatment decisions on his/her behalf in the event of a mental health crisis. • Go to Disability Rights Network’s website at to download a copy of the PA Mental Health Advance Directive (MH-Adv-Dir-Decl-Form.pdf).
  8. 8. Preventing Arrest – Finding a Missing Person • The National Missing and Unidentified Persons Database allows the general public to add new missing persons, with physical and circumstantial details, photographs, dental contacts and other critical information. Posters can be created and cases tracked. Go to • Additional resources are available at
  9. 9. Criminal Justice System – Advice • Get a good criminal lawyer as soon as possible. Try to prevent the police from questioning a suspect without a lawyer present. The police must stop questioning anyone who asks for a lawyer. If possible, consult with a lawyer before deciding whether to reveal a suspect’s mental illness. • If you cannot afford to pay the full fee for a private lawyer, contact public defender services, court- appointed attorneys, or local criminal defense lawyers associations or bar associations. (additional information in following slides)
  10. 10. Criminal Justice System – Advice • If a person with mental illness has been arrested, see the judge or call the district attorney and ask the court to make it a condition of bail or sentencing that the person must follow all treatment recommendations. This often helps to increase compliance with medications and other important treatments. • If a person with mental illness has been incarcerated, contact the prison, ask for the medical department, and give the person's treatment history (often the place of last treatment is sufficient).
  11. 11. Criminal Justice System – Procedures and Advice • For a brief overview see Dealing with the Criminal Justice System e_Criminal_Justice_System.htm • A Guide to Mental Illness and the Criminal Justice System has an informative discussion of procedures and terminology as well as helpful advice. /ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=60725
  12. 12. Criminal Justice System – Procedures and Advice • When a Person with Mental Illness Goes to Prison – How to Help (a joint project of NAMI NY and the Urban Justice Center): %20illness%20goes%20to%20prison.pdf • Understanding the Criminal Justice System by NAMI CT: ecticut,_Inc/Home135/Criminal_Jusitice1/mh_handbook.pdf
  13. 13. Resources for People in the Greater Philadelphia Area • If you or your loved one are about to have or have had an encounter with the police, you should seek resources in the county where the incident is occurring/has occurred (even if this is different from the county of residence). • The PA Premise Alert System allows families to provide information about a person with mental illness to first responders before a problem occurs (
  14. 14. Chester County • Crisis Line: 610-918-2100 or 877-918-2100 • Public Defender (free lawyers for low income criminal defendants) 610-344-6940 • Mental Health Recovery Court (to divert arrested offenders with mental illness from incarceration) = the ADAPT program; call Bail Agency 610-344-6886 Mental Health 610-344-6265 Adult Probation & Parole 610-344-6290
  15. 15. Chester County • NAMI PA, Chester County has prepared a very helpful booklet with a wealth of additional information (e.g. on the Mental Health Protocol which provides a way for an offender to receive treatment in the community where there are more resources available than jail). NAMI PA, Chester County can also provide additional information and support. • Call 610-430-0177
  16. 16. Delaware County • Crisis line 610-352-4703 • If a family member is incarcerated, contact the prison's Mental Health Liaisons at 610-361-3237 or 610-361-3336. These liaisons connect incarcerated mentally ill individuals to mental health services while they are incarcerated and upon release. • Contact Office of Behavioral Health at 610-713-2365 for information about resources such as probation/parole officers who specialize in helping mentally ill offenders.
  17. 17. Delaware County • Public Defender (free lawyers for low income criminal defendants) 610-891-4100 • For additional information and support: NAMI PA, Delaware County 610-623-0071 NAMI PA, Main Line 267-251-6240
  18. 18. Montgomery County • Crisis line 610-279-6100 or 800-452-4189 • Crisis line for children or adolescents ACCESS: 215-540-2150 • Montgomery County Emergency Services is often able to divert individuals with mental illness from the criminal justice system to mental health services. 610-279-6100 ( • Public Defender (free lawyers for low income criminal defendants) 610-278-3295
  19. 19. Montgomery County • Help in navigating the criminal justice system is provided by peer support through Community Advocates for Montgomery County: 610-270-0375 • For additional information and support: NAMI PA, Montgomery County 215-886-0350 NAMI PA, Main Line 267-251-6240
  20. 20. Philadelphia County • Crisis line 215-686-4420 • Public Defender (free lawyers for low income criminal defendants) 215-568-3190 • Drug Treatment Court 215-683-3788 • For additional information and support: Philadelphia NAMI 267-687-4381
  21. 21. Created 2013 Presented by NAMI PA, Main Line an affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness The complete document this presentation summarizes can be found at: All information is current as of publication date; please let us know if you encounter broken hyperlinks.