Legal Resources

Family Member Arrested? 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 in a city jail, remind him/her of the right to have an attorney present if being questioned by police officers or detectives.
  • 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 Sheriff’s nursing staff and Jail Mental Health Service staff. It is important your family member feels safe to speak openly with the mental health screeners.

Consensus Project

The Consensus Project is a project of the Criminal Justice/Mental Health Information Network coordinated by the Council of State Governments Justice Center.  It is an unprecedented, national effort to help local, state, and federal policymakers and criminal justice and mental health professionals improve the response to people with mental illnesses who come into contact with the criminal justice system.

The landmark Consensus Project Report, which was written by Justice Center staff and representatives of leading criminal justice and mental health organizations, was released in June 2002. Since then, Justice Center staff working on the Consensus Project have supported the implementation of practical, flexible criminal justice/mental health strategies through on-site technical assistance; the dissemination of information about programs, research, and policy developments in the field; continued development of policy recommendations; and educational presentations.

Criminal Justice/Mental Health Information Network

The Criminal Justice/Mental Health Information Network (InfoNet) builds and expands on previous efforts to collect program information as a resource for policymakers, practitioners, and advocates working to improve outcomes when people with mental illnesses come into contact with the criminal justice system.

Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law

Individuals with mental illness and intellectual disabilities deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, which is why the Bazelon Center works to ensure that individuals at all income levels have access to community-mental health services that will enable them to live and work independently in the community.

While nearly 18% of the general population have mental illness of some kind, that percentage is disproportionately higher in the prison population. Like people of color, people with disabilities are much more likely to be incarcerated. They are often non-violent offenders, which is why we at the Bazelon Center believe in criminal justice reform to change the way we punish non-violent and first-time offenders. Even people who break the law deserve to be treated fairly by it.

Having a job, perhaps more than any other factor, enables people with mental illness to lead full lives in their communities. We will continue to strive for workplace and employment equality, so that individuals with disabilities will not be discriminated against while seeking employment and/or once hired.

We believe that all people deserve equal care and protection under the law. Our work in education is mostly based around protecting the rights of students in public schools under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). Under these laws, all students — regardless of mental illness or ability — should be able to receive accommodation and education while being integrated into the classroom.

Hiring a Lawyer

You may have a legal problem and not know how to resolve it. Lawyers have been specially trained in the law and our legal system. And the right lawyer can advise and assist you with your particular problem.

If you are facing criminal charges or a lawsuit, for example, a lawyer can help you understand your rights, and the strengths and weaknesses of your case. A lawyer knows the rules and procedures for arguing the case in court. And a lawyer can make a big difference in whether or not your side of the story is successfully presented to a judge or jury.

A lawyer can help you get a divorce, file for bankruptcy or draw up a will. Or, if you have been seriously injured or mistreated, a lawyer can help you file a lawsuit. Some lawyers handle a variety of legal problems; others specialize in certain areas of the law.

In some instances, failing to call a lawyer immediately can make the situation worse. If you are arrested or involved in a serious auto accident, for example, someone should interview the witnesses and gather evidence as soon as possible.

In other situations, preventive legal advice could save you time, trouble and money by preventing legal problems before they arise. Take, for example, the purchase of your family home or car. You might have a problem in the future if you sign the purchase agreement without completely understanding it. Or maybe you are launching a business with a partner. A lawyer could point out the advantages and drawbacks of various partnership arrangements.

These are just a few of the many situations in which lawyers can provide advice and assistance.

Legal Definitions

Legal Definitions are provided for public use and knowledge.

US Legal, Inc provides legal information in the form of Questions & Answers, Definitions, Articles, Blogs and Reporting on various subjects in the United States legal field. You can also find an attorney or buy legal forms for Pro Se representation. US Legal seeks to simplify and break down the barriers to legal information.  Click here.

Legal Glossary

Nolo is the nation’s oldest and most respected provider of legal information for consumers and small businesses.  This listing takes you to the Nolo glossary of legal terms.

Mental Health Courts

Mental health courts have spread rapidly across the country in the few years since their emergence. In the late 1990s only a handful of such courts were in operation; as of 2007, there were more than 175 in both large and small jurisdictions. The links on this page address a series of commonly asked questions about mental health courts.  Click here.

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

NIMH Vision

NIMH envisions a world in which mental illnesses are prevented and cured.

NIMH Mission

The mission of NIMH is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery and cure.

For the Institute to continue fulfilling this vital public health mission, it must foster innovative thinking and ensure that a full array of novel scientific perspectives are used to further discovery in the evolving science of brain, behavior, and experience. In this way, breakthroughs in science can become breakthroughs for all people with mental illnesses.

In support of this mission, NIMH will generate research and promote research training to fulfill the following four objectives:

  • Promote discovery in the brain and behavioral sciences to fuel research on the causes of mental disorders
  • Chart mental illness trajectories to determine when, where, and how to intervene
  • Develop new and better interventions that incorporate the diverse needs and circumstances of people with mental illnesses
  • Strengthen the public health impact of NIMH-supported research

To reach these goals, the NIMH divisions and programs are designed to emphasize translational research spanning bench, to bedside, to practice. For targeted priorities and funding initiatives, please visit our division websites

SAMHSA Mental Health Dictionary

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) maintains an extensive dictionary of medical and mental health terms and definitions on their website. Click Here

Evidenced-Based Practices: Shaping Mental Health Services Toward Recovery

The goal of Assertive Community Treatment is to help people stay out of the hospital and to develop skills for living in the community, so that their mental illness is not the driving force in their lives. Assertive community treatment offers services that are customized to the individual needs of the consumer, delivered by a team of practitioners, and available 24 hours a day. This link to the SAMHSA Evidenced-Based Practices page provides a number of documents that will help to implement an Assertive Community Treatment program.