How to Authorize the Release of Medical Information in County Jails
Medical Release Form
The incarcerated person must complete and sign a medical release authorization form and submit it to the jail. The template below may be used, but please be aware that some jails may only accept their own form. Click below, print out two copies, then mail them to your incarcerated loved one. Alternatively, if you are anticipating jail surrender or a scheduled book-in, bring a signed copy with you and leave one signed copy for your loved ones.
Medical Release Authorization Form
Harris County Medical Release Authorization Form
Upon receiving the form, instruct your incarcerated loved one to:
- complete and sign both forms identically
- submit one signed copy to jail staff
- mail the second signed copy back to you
The medical release form states that the incarcerated person gives the jail permission to speak with you about their medical treatment or health.
Call the jail and ask for the medical unit or nurse. You should then be able to inquire about your loved one’s medical history, treatment, and care.
In our experience, authorizing medical release and contacting the jail staff to inquire about care can signal to jail staff that advocates are watching, and change outcomes.
Contact us if you have any questions.
Yes, if the incarcerated person provides to the jail a signed form authorizing the release of their medical information and records to family members.
After an incarcerated person submits an authorization form to the county jail, the jail is permitted to release and discuss (in person and by phone) all of the information and records covered by the form.
A valid authorization form is required to contain the names of the incarcerated individual and recipient(s), a description of the information disclosed and the purpose of disclosure, an expiration date, a dated signature, and certain statements.
A valid authorization form is required to contain the following: (i) a description of the information to be disclosed, (ii) the name of the inmate, (iii) the name of the recipient of information and/or records, (iv) a description of each purpose of the requested information (for example, to confirm that my relative is given the medication that he or she requires), (v) an expiration date, and (vi) a dated signature. The authorization form must also contain certain required statements addressing the individual’s right to revoke the authorization, the ability or inability to condition treatment on the signing of the authorization, and the potential for re-disclosure of the information by the recipient.
Yes, the county jail must either provide access to the records or provide the incarcerated person with a written denial, explaining the basis for denial, within 30 days.
The county jail must either provide access to or copies of the records or send to the requesting individual a written denial within 30 days. If the county jail issues a written denial, the denial must specify in plain language the basis for denial, provide a statement of the individual review rights (including a description as to how to exercise such review rights), and describe how the requesting individual may complain to the jail or to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (including the name, title, and telephone number of the contact person or office designated to receive complaints).
Generally, yes, if the request is made by the incarcerated person. However, there are certain exceptions.
Upon an incarcerated person’s request, the jail must provide the access requested by this person, including inspection and/or obtaining a copy of the their medical records. If the request is for a copy to be sent to another person, such as to a family member, the jail must comply with the request. There are certain specific instances in which a jail can deny an incarcerated person’s request for access to the medical records, such as when releasing a copy of the records to the incarcerated person would jeopardize the health, safety, security, custody, or rehabilitation of the requesting individual or of other incarcerated people, or the safety of any officer, employee, or another person at the jail responsible for the transporting of the incarcerated person. In this circumstance, the incarcerated individual maintains the right to inspect the medical records in person. A jail may also deny access to psychotherapy notes and information compiled in reasonable anticipation of, or for use in, a civil, criminal, or administrative action or proceeding. Blanket refusals to provide records are not permitted. Justifications such as “embarrassment” or the existence of an open investigation are not valid bases for the denial of the request. As noted above, if a jail denies an incarcerated person’s request for a copy of the medical records, the jail must provide an explanation for the denial within 30 days of the request.
Yes, if the family member is an executor, administrator, or otherwise has the authority to act on behalf of a deceased inmate or of the inmate’s estate.
The executor, administrator, or another person that has authority to act on behalf of an incarcerated person whose deceased or their estate must be treated by the jail as the incarcerated person for purposes of providing access to medical records. Thus, if such a person requests a copy of the deceased person’s medical records or to inspect the medical records, the jail must provide the records.
The incarcerated person or their family can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Civil Rights.
The incarcerated person’s right to access and receive a copy of their medical records is established in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”). If a jail does not provide adequate access to the medical records as required by HIPAA, the requesting individual or their family can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Civil Rights. The online complaint form is located here: https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/filing-a-complaint/index.html.
No, the release of autopsy records is not restricted by privacy laws. Moreover, Texas law expressly prohibits the withholding of autopsy records (including the report and detailed findings) except photographs or x-rays of a body taken during an autopsy.
Autopsy records may be requested under the Texas Public Information Act by submitting a written request to the county holding the records. Medical examiners in some counties (for example, Travis County) have an online process for requesting autopsy records.
 The analysis in this document applies to county jails that are “covered entities” under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”).
 45 C.F.R. § 164.508(a); 2 Texas Health & Safety Code § 181.154(b).
 45 C.F.R. § 164.508(c).
 45 C.F.R. § 164.524(b)(2).
 45 C.F.R. § 164.524(d)(1).
 45 C.F.R. § 164.524(3)(ii).
 45 C.F.R. § 164.524(c)(1).
 Additionally, if a record is generated or held by a physician, the incarcerated person has a right to access the record within 15 days unless the physician determines that access would be harmful to the physical, mental, or emotional health of the inmate. 3 Tex. Occ. Code § 159.006.
 45 C.F.R. § 164.524(c)(3)(ii).
 45 C.F.R. § 164.524(a)(1).
 45 C.F.R. §§ 164.524(g)(1), (g)(4).
Nothing on this page constitutes legal advice.