How to File a Complaint Against a County Jail

How to File a Complaint Against a County Jail

When you receive the news that someone you care about has been mistreated in county jail, you'll no doubt have a lot of strong feelings. However, it's important to remain calm and figure out how to best help them in the situation. Often, an inmate may need your help and support in figuring out the best course of action.

Fortunately, all county jails have a way of filing official jail complaints that deal with issues like violence, healthcare, and other inmate issues your loved one may be facing. Each county jail will have different procedures and policies for reporting a complaint, which may feel confusing and frustrating as you struggle to find the right resources. We'll go over how to file jail complaints against a county jail so you can help your loved one through this tough time.

How do You File a Complaint Against a County Jail?

It's important to be aware of inmates' rights while someone you know is in jail. Inmates have rights that protect their well-being, including but not limited to:

  • Protection against physical assault
  • Receiving appropriate and timely medical care
  • Humane living conditions and facilities
  • Access to mental healthcare
  • Protection against racial and religious discrimination

If someone you know has been mistreated in county jail, you should try to take all of the appropriate actions to rectify the situation and prevent further mistreatment. The steps you need to take vary by jail, but there are always ways of filing formal jail complaints against a county jail. You should always look on the specific county jail's website for more information on submitting complaints.

In general, as a family member or a friend who has received word that someone you know has been mistreated while in county jail, there are a few different actions you should take. An immediate action you can take is to call the local county jail where the person is located. If you're in the area, you may also want to consider making an in-person visit to make a formal complaint.

Inmates may also be required to go through the official grievance process by themselves at the facility. In this case, you'll want to research and support them as best you can. Typically, they can find the resources to submit the correct complaint form in the library or request the proper complaint forms

For issues that are not resolved after a complaint directly to the jail, you may need to escalate the issue to the State Department of Corrections Office. You may also contact the state governor's office for assistance with the issue. 

Additionally, there are other resources available to you, which may help you with the situation. For individuals with a disability, you can contact the state's protection and advocacy organization. You may also want to contact the local state chapter of the ACLU. However, before you contact the ACLU for help with your loved one's situation, you'll need to go through the official complaint procedures of the jail. It's important to document these official grievances, as you'll need to pass these documents on to the ACLU. 

As someone on the outside, you'll have more access to resources than an inmate. You may want to consider seeking legal counsel for the issue. In this situation, you'll want to find a lawyer that specializes in prisoner's rights. You can use an online search to find a lawyer with this kind of credential in your area. 

Why Might You Have to File a Complaint?

Unfortunately, mistreatment happens in jails and prisons. When it happens, you'll want to find the best way to support and advocate for your family member or friend as best you can. Researching and understanding prisoners' rights is a good place to start. There are a few common issues that mistreated inmates might encounter during their time in prison, including issues related to healthcare and problems with other inmates or staff.


Inmates are guaranteed their right to adequate and timely healthcare resources. Jails are responsible for the health and safety of inmates, which means that all county jails are required to give inmates medical attention for serious or potentially serious health conditions. 

However, sometimes inmates don't receive the medical attention they need. When inmates have struggled to be seen by a health professional, you may need to contact the jail directly on their behalf. You can call the county jail's medical center and talk to one of the medical staff available. You'll need to explain the condition of the inmate and ask for it to be attended to immediately. 

Issues With Inmates or Staff Members

Your friend or family may encounter issues with others during their time in county jail. When that situation happens, it's important to be supportive and help with whatever the inmate needs. Depending on the issue, you may need to make calls to the county jail, follow the official jail complaints procedure, or seek outside resources for assistance with the issue. 

Dealing with problems and mistreatment within county jail is stressful and scary for the inmate. If someone you know is dealing with this type of issue, it's critical to remain calm, focused, and level-headed to sort out the issue and protect their rights. You may need to perform research, call the county jail, or go to other resources for help. In some instances, an inmate will have to file a formal complaint for the issue. If you're looking for more information about what you can do to help an inmate, our faqs answer many common questions that family members and friends have concerning the jail system.