Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Arrested and sentenced for burglary: Los Angeles: help please

My sister had been missing for 2 months. While she has been homeless for most of the past year, we knew where she was. I just found out that she has been out of contact because she was arrested for felony burglary. The inmate locator service let me know she’s been sentenced (but he was vague), and that the judge referred her to the Department of Mental Health. She’s still being held, so I assume they will transfer her, but don’t know. Does anyone have any suggestions for what questions to ask once I talk to the medical advocate? I do not have conservatorship, and she does not contact anyone any longer. Anyone been through something similar? What are the likely outcomes if she’s forced into a mental health facility?

Thank you.

Hi islandgirl,

This all happened before I met my husband, but from his experience, first being arrested and imprisoned several times in CA and then finally being sent to the State Hospital is this: Probably any mental health facility would be better for your sister rather than jail or prison.

Even though CA is one of the best states for care of the mentally ill people who have trouble with the law, care and treatment inside the jails and prisons still has a long way to go. And then there’s the interaction with the general population, who may not understand or recognize mentally ill behavior.

I hope you are able to have a good talk with the medical advocate. If that doesn’t seem to be enough, see if you can contact the judge directly if the final decision hasn’t been handed down yet. If those tactics don’t seem to be working, keep bugging the Department of Mental Health until you see progress. I hope your sister will be able to go to a proper mental health facility. Keep us posted.

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I recommend you call the Treatment Advocacy Center - a legal group that focuses on helping seriously mentally ill people. If they can’t hep you directly, they should be able to point you towards resources.

200 North Glebe Road, Suite 801
Arlington, Virginia 22203
Phone: (703)294-6001


Thank you for this information. Unfortunately the person there said that wasn’t in the scope of what they do…she referred me to Disability Rights in California. That person would only speak to me with my sister’s permission. Very frustrating, and truthfully this has been my experience every time I try to find supports for her. She doesn’t believe she has any illness, and will not give permission for me to talk to anyone. I often feel like giving up, as there are so many barriers.

Still, I appreciate all ideas…maybe soon I’ll find the right number with someone willing to help.


Thank you so much for sharing your husband’s experience. It really helps to know others have been through this. I found out today that she has been deemed incompetent and will be sent to a state hospital as soon as a bed opens up. It could take 2-3 months, but once there, she will be forced to accept treatment. While I am thankful she will be safe (as opposed to sleeping on the streets of LA), I worry about her well being as she is in jail. Thank you again for checking in.

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You obviously care about hour sister and have done a lot of work already. This is a very diffcult journey. I don’t have experience from the criminal and forced treatment side of this, but I DO relate to the horror of having a missing loved one. (Ours eventually got so sick that he was located, got hospitalized, over and over again, but now is very stable.) I suggest you read the book “I Am Not Sick; I Don’t Need Help” in preparation for the possibility that, after she receives treatment in the state hospital, you may possibly have a chance to talk with her and that could be a start to a conversation that leads to her regaining trust in you, which will help you interact with her in the future to help her stay med-compliant. Treatment by the hospital will not be a cure-all, so you can prepare now for the future. Learn all you can!

Another idea would be to call NAMI California - they will also have people and resources to direct you too. Explain your situation and see what they suggest:

NAMI California
1851 Heritage Way, Suite 150 Sacramento, CA 95815
Main (916) 567-0163

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You might also look into the Mental Health Court system in Los Angeles:


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I am sorry you are going thru this. Unfortunately if your sister is 21 or older, nobody will tell you anything unless she signs a release of confidentiality. This has become 1 of the most difficult things when trying to help an adult family member who is not well. Definitely go to the judge or DA and the PD, find out who is representing her and explain the situation. It is a broken system but I agree with LifeisHard that a state hospital is better then jail or prison. Hang in there.

Thank you for sharing these ideas. I have contacted the mental health court, and spoke to a court psychologist who turned out to be the most helpful contact. He explained that she was found mentally incompetent to stand trial for her charges. She is now housed in a “high observation” mental health unit at the Lynwood Jail. She has her own cell, but can only be out for short periods (and she is handcuffed when she is out for safety reasons). She is on a waitlist for a bed at the state psychiatric hospital. He says it could be 2-3 months before she is transferred. Once there, she will be forced to take medication until she is considered stable/sane enough to go back to court to face the charges.

I am torn between feeling relieved that she is no longer on the streets of LA, and feeling devastated by the reality of how she must feel now with her current confinement and long road ahead.

Thanks to all who have “listened”.

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My adult daughter, now 35, is sane and working and doing well after jail, forced hospitalization and court ordered injections. She is not the same woman she was pre-illness, but the psychosis is over.

This can be the start of a good future for your sister. It pays to be as involved as you can, but she is an adult, and you have to let the path unfold as it may. Honestly, I learned over the years to relax when my daughter was in the hospital or in jail as that was much better than many alternatives. I wish you both the best.