Arrested: What to Do When Your Loved One's in Jail

Arrested: What to Do When Your Loved One's in Jail

by Wes Denham

View All Available Formats & Editions

When someone close to you is arrested, things get Crazy fast. Inmates want bail bonds and private attorneys, food from the commissary, health care and prescription drugs. They want someone to prove, somehow, that witnesses were lying or that police reports were incorrect. Lawyers and bail bondsmen appear, as if by magic, with hands held out for money, and are


When someone close to you is arrested, things get Crazy fast. Inmates want bail bonds and private attorneys, food from the commissary, health care and prescription drugs. They want someone to prove, somehow, that witnesses were lying or that police reports were incorrect. Lawyers and bail bondsmen appear, as if by magic, with hands held out for money, and are followed by jail fees, arrest fees, jail phone charges, probation fees, class fees, drug test fees, and on and on.

What to do?

Arrested explains how to make decisions that are in the best interests of the entire family-not just the defendant-and provides checklists of what to do, and in what order. It explains legal proceedings and jail procedures; it guides you through painful decisions; it helps you gather vital information, manage your budget, and avoid scams; it advises you how to choose a good private attorney-and whether you even need one. Form letters are included so you can quickly send important information to inmates.

Whether your loved one is charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct or first-degree murder, Arrested is an indispensable book.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Denham turns years of experience as an investigator for a criminal defense law firm into no-nonsense advice for those with a loved one in jail. His book amounts to a valuable extended checklist for those coping with the incarceration of a family member or significant friend, from the time the phone rings with news of the arrest onward. Denham shares the jargon, procedures, tricks, and traps in his coverage of jail visits, bail, public defenders, jail medical care, and legal and jail costs, and he outlines a decision-making process that considers the well-being of the entire family. The text includes an assessment tool that helps readers determine whether their incarcerated loved one is capable of staying out of trouble and a template for a family management plan designed to help the defendant prove his or her worthiness for leniency at sentencing. VERDICT Hard-hitting, blunt, and practical, this book is packed with inside knowledge of the jail experience. It's a necessary purchase for criminal justice collections in public libraries.—Joan Pedzich, Harris Beach PLLC, Rochester, NY

Product Details

Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
Publication date:
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
File size:
3 MB

Read an Excerpt


What to Do When Your Loved One's in Jail

By Wes Denham

Chicago Review Press Incorporated

Copyright © 2010 Sam Wesley Denham
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-56976-742-9



Those Terrible Telephone Calls

IT STARTS WITH A phone call, almost always at night.

"I'm in jail! I can't stand this. I didn't do what they said I did. You've got to get me out of here. Please, please ..."

You mutter, "I love you." You say, "I'll stand by you." But what else? Is there something you should be saying?

Now your loved one — the defendant — is begging, sobbing, yelling. In the background there are shouts, hoots, jeers, in English, Spanish, Hindi, and Chinese.

A mechanical voice cuts in. "Reminder: This call is being recorded. This call will terminate in 15 seconds."

"Please, please ..."


Each night, thousands of people like you receive phone calls like this. Your family member, friend, or loved one has been arrested and is in jail. Even before you put down the phone, you realize that your life will also be upended and that this nightmare has only just begun.

In your home, things get crazy. Lights go on. Doors slam. People mill around and start talking all at once. Children start to cry. And what's up with the dog? How do you make decisions? How do you even think amid such an uproar?

What, you wonder, will it take to procure freedom or a shortened prison term? The defendant mentioned bail. Should you throw on some clothes and grab your checkbook and credit cards? Should you call relatives and ask them to get their credit cards and checkbooks? Should you all pile into a car and rush to a bondsman's office in the dead of night?

No! Absolutely not. That's a sucker play. I'll explain why shortly.

During the first call, here's what you do. First, get the defendant to read his or her jail number to you. It's probably on a plastic wristband. Write it down. You can't send mail easily or find out anything from police, jails, or courts without it. You have limited time on jail calls, so emphasize these important points:

1. Tell the defendant not to talk to police, prosecutors, or probation officers without an attorney present.

2. Tell the defendant not to talk to other inmates, who will snitch.

3. Tell the defendant not to sign any statement without an attorney present.

4. Tell the defendant not to waive the right to an attorney, no matter what.

5.Promise help and support.

6.Do not promise to bail out the defendant or hire a private attorney. Not now. Not yet.

The defendant will be stressed. It will be difficult for him or her to remember what you say. Make the defendant repeat each important point back to you. Not talking is the most important advice in criminal law. An O.J.-style Dream Team will tell you this for $5,000 an hour; a public defender will give you the same advice for free. The shock of jail makes people nuts. They babble; they snitch; they confess to other peoples' crimes. Cops take advantage. A certain amount of trickery and deceit during interrogation is legal — that's right, legal. If your defendant has difficulty understanding this important concept, try the short version: "Shut the f#*@ up!"

Everybody understands this.

As soon as the phone call is done, cut out the Stick 'Em Up pages from this book and pin them near the phone. They're checklists. You'll need them. Next, get the mailing address of the jail. Cut out the first Jail Mail on the next page, which repeats the crucial information above and explains it to the defendant. Scribble a personal message on the back, then fold, stuff, stamp, and seal. Write the defendant's jail number clearly on the envelope. Corrections officers may not deliver mail without it. Drive to the central post office — yes, in the dead of night — and drop this first letter into the box for the early A.M. pickup. Hopefully the defendant hasn't confessed or signed a statement. Hopefully your words got through the emotional walls, the confusion, and the noise. Jail Mail #1 will reinforce what you said.

Do you know what most defendants wish for, deep down in the guts where even psychopaths don't lie? Mostly they wish to get free at once and to get back to balling, banging, and boning, or whatever they were doing that got them arrested in the first place. They also want a hat trick — bail bond, private attorney, and a jury trial. And they want you to pay for it. And damn the expense.

The jail's holding pen will disabuse them of any idea that there is an easy fix. The hosing down jocularly referred to as a shower, the jellied finger up the anus and vagina, the jumpsuit, the flip-flops, and the endless rules will emphasize for even the most dimwitted defendant that life, forever more, will be different. In a big-city jail, inmates quickly discover that no one is in any particular hurry to do anything about them. Why should they? Once inside, prisoners aren't going anywhere anytime soon.


STAY SAFE!. Page 1

(This information is from a book called Arrested.)

1. Do not talk about your case to other inmates. They'll rat you out for a deal.

2. Do not talk to police, probation officers, or prosecutors without an attorney present.

3. Do not sign any statement without an attorney present.

4. Do not waive your right to an attorney, no matter what!

5. Eat the food. It's not tasty, but you need to keep up your energy and stay healthy.

6. Make an appointment with the nurse or physician's assistant. Staying healthy is important. It will take time to get prescriptions. See if you can get aspirin or Tylenol. You'll need it later for caffeine withdrawal headaches.

7. Don't drink jail wine. The stuff can be poisonous. Inmates pee in it to get it started.

8. Don't use jail dope. It is poisonous. You'll be charged with more crimes.

9. Get a haircut. You want to look neat and tidy for the judge.

10. Bathe and shave. Get your toiletries every week. Judges don't like body odor.

11. Cut your fingernails. Long "pimp" fingernails annoy judges. If you can't get a nail clipper, bite your nails off.

12. Don't spit on corrections officers. Because of AIDS, spitting is a felony.

13. Don't touch or hit corrections officers. More crime means more time. Ignore insults.

14. If inmates bug you for details about your arrest, just say the whole thing makes you crazy and you can't stand to talk about it.

15. Avoid sex with other inmates. Too many diseases.

16. Sign up for free Bibles or Korans. You need something to read.

17. Sign up for all classes, religious services, lectures, etc. No matter how cornball, they're better than staring at flaking paint.

18. Get as many envelopes, sheets of paper, and stamps as you can. Call your family. Ask them to mail you an address list with phone numbers for all your friends and family members.

19. Get trade goods, such as candy and chips, out of the jail store or commissary. This helps make friends.

20. Wash your hands when you're around other inmates who are sick. But be careful about it — don't do it in a way that disrespects other guys. That could get you a beating.

21. Drink coffee and tea if available. If you go off caffeine cold turkey, you'll get a splitting headache.

22. Don't get jail tattoos. You can get seriously ill from infections. Jail tatts make judges nuts.


STAY SAFE!, Page 2

23. No gambling. This wastes your commissary allowance and gets you a beating if you can't pay up.

24. Don't talk about your commissary allowance. This invites theft and shakedowns.

25. All laws apply in jail. Drug use, assault, and battery are still illegal!

26. Do not argue with corrections officers. Make complaints in writing through the jail's complaint procedure.

27. Do not "show out," or challenge, corrections officers. Disciplinary and incident reports can be sent to prosecutors to make your sentence longer and lessen your chances for leniency, probation, or diversion. The Man's got you. Get used to it.

28. Do not buy stuff from inmates running "cell stores." You'll have to pay off debts with sex, your own commissary allowance, or a beating.

29. Stay off radar screens. Concentrate on your legal defense and your life after jail. Don't become a problem for corrections officers. They can make your life more unpleasant than it already is.

30. Don't get into fights with other inmates. If you are reclassified as a violent inmate, your life will be more miserable. Avoid "stare parties" and walking with the "pimp roll," which challenge other inmates.

31. Don't try to break up fights. When the Blue Horde arrives, you don't want to be swept up in the crowd. Pepper spray and TASERs really hurt!

32. Read jail rules and orientation pamphlets and handouts. These are the rules. They tell you how the game is played.

33. Don't accept favors or an offer from another inmate to be your "protector." Protect yourself by doing your time quietly, working on your legal defense, and avoiding challenges to officers and inmates.

34. Take legal advice from attorneys, not inmates. If other inmates knew anything about criminal law, they wouldn't be in jail.

35. If another inmate claims to have been appointed to "supervise" you, don't believe it. Corrections officers are the supervisors in jail. Everyone else is just a prisoner.

Time drags. Drunks puke into the drains, first the booze, then the yellow stuff, then the red. The air stinks. Curses and shouts ring out. Madmen babble to their demons, scratch sores, or masturbate astride the steel toilets. Sometimes the cold concrete and the cold steel, the din, and the humiliations will stimulate defendants to think new thoughts and ponder some changes. It takes time for jail to work its mental magic. But in jail, time is something that inmates share. It abounds. It overflows.

Jail is the Time Machine.



Preface to Freedom

For a defendant languishing in jail, freedom, which once was taken for granted, now seems exotic and unreachable. Someone incarcerated for the first time has the sense of being swept up by a whirlwind and deposited on the other side of the Earth. It is a place as mysterious as the trans-Eurasian steppe. Everywhere there are unknown people, many speaking languages difficult to understand.

On the horizon far, far away, there appears an Asiatic city. Is this the city called Freedom? How peculiar are the blue-tiled minarets and the golden domes! Even at great distance, behind jailhouse bars, the air imagined carries the faintest hint of pomegranate, lemon, and rose. Fountains burble there, and when the wind shifts, there comes a murmur as the sunset prayer rises heavenward.

From jail, freedom is as strange as Samarqand. The gray painted line that must be toed twice daily at roll call is the beginning of the golden road to get there. It is a long and treacherous path. Robbers lurk, and vultures hover. Through steep passes, the broad highway narrows to a thread that can part in an instant and precipitate the defendant into bottomless gorges. But prisoners must walk this road. It is the only way to freedom. Their families can help.

This book is your guide. This chapter details what's in it and how to use it.


Legal strategies and legal advice are not to be found here for a simple reason: I'm not a lawyer. That's a good thing, because it means I can talk freely about how criminal defense attorneys earn, or fail to earn, their money. I'm fortunately not subject to regulation by fuddy-duddy bar associations, whose main rule seems to be:

Of attorneys,
As of the dead, Let nothing but good
Be said!

In any case, there are excellent books on criminal defense written for laymen. I particularly recommend The Criminal Law Handbook: Know Your Rights, Survive the System, by Paul Bergman and Sara J. Berman. It's well written. The authors even manage a mild witticism now and then — not bad for two esquires writing pro se.

Also, I will not discuss at any length the appalling disproportion of African Americans and Hispanics in jails and prisons. This is not an oversight on my part. Entire libraries have been written on this subject. In my first book, Arrest-Proof Yourself, Dale Carson and I wrote about the practical matter of why minorities are more available for arrest than white people. However, at this point none of that matters, because your loved one is already in custody.

Claims of racism are extraordinarily difficult to prove. Even blatant racism may not be grounds for dismissing charges. Racism may make police and prosecutors liable at most to civil damages, and many states have statutory limits on how much you can win in civil actions against government. In my state, it's $100,000. That prize will not attract big, contingent-fee law firms. During a major trial, they spend more than that for coffee and Danish.

Courts consider three things. First, they weigh the facts. Did defendants do the crime? Second, courts will consider matters of law. Were defendants properly charged? Were searches made properly and evidence obtained legally? Are the charges provable beyond a reasonable doubt? Lastly, courts will hear mitigating factors that may merit leniency. Notice that race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual preference are not on this list of judicial priorities.

Note also that among the government employees who compose the criminal justice system, minorities are overrepresented. Anyone who has spent time in a courtroom has heard defendants rage against the system's alleged bias against minorities. Defendants never seem to notice that the arresting officer may be black, the prosecutor a woman, the public defender Hispanic, and the judge Chinese. In every courtroom, there are moments of mirth.

Many African Americans harbor deep resentment against white people. If you feel this way, get over it, at least for the time your loved one is in jail. Resentment hinders, not helps. Take that chip off your shoulder and stow it in the closet for the duration. Don't be angry; be effective. You can fight for racial justice once your defendant is free.

Finally, I will not discuss the juvenile justice system, except in passing and for an absolutely important reason. The major recommendation of this book concerns importing into the adult system some of the practices of the juvenile system. In juvenile justice, families are players. As legal guardians of minor offenders, their status is mandated by statute. Families stand up with the defendant in court. Judges look to them for answers — and, more importantly, for solutions. "What," judges ask, "can you do to get this kid straightened out?"

Juvenile judges encourage non-prison punishments with heavy emphasis on education, work, rehabilitation, and drug treatment. Frequently they advise getting the juvenile a mentor. This is an interesting word. "Mentor" means, literally, a thinking instructor. Above all, kids need guidance in how to think. They need to think about how to become a citizen, and how not to become a lowlife criminal.

Adult defendants are independent of their families, but only in the legal sense. When it comes to money and to understanding how the system works, they're often ignorant and frequently dependent, like grown-up children. I ought to know. I've spent so much time in jails and prisons with these poor people that I have nightmares about gray navy surplus paint and steel doors.


In criminal cases, the interests of judges and the defendant's family are similar. Judges want justice to be done and the public to be protected. They also want, if possible, for the defendant to be transformed into a citizen. This last is, or should be, your interest. You want the inmate's freedom, yes, but freedom as a citizen, not as a thug. Defendants' interests are different. They want to get out of jail right now. They want to beat the rap, or if that isn't possible, to minimize the consequences, regardless of the costs.

Freedom, of course, costs plenty. Expenses include inmate fees, jail phone bills, commissary fees, fines, victim restitution, probation fees, drug-testing fees, and drug treatment costs. Years later, there will be additional fees for sealing or expunging criminal histories and restoring civil rights. Most defendants depend on their families to pay some or all of these costs.


Excerpted from Arrested by Wes Denham. Copyright © 2010 Sam Wesley Denham. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Wes Denham is the coauthor of Arrest-Proof Yourself. He has spent years interviewing men behind bars as an investigator and Spanish translator for a criminal defense law firm and writing family management plans for criminal defendants.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >