Trying to find a particular inmate who is currently or was formerly serving time in a jail or prison is not always easy. Thousands of incarceration facilities, from county jails to maximum-security federal penitentiaries, exist throughout the country. Unfortunately, finding an inmate in one of these facilities is not always straightforward given that there is no central database covering inmates at all facilities. An inmate search will often depend on the level of government responsible for running the facility in which the individual inmate is incarcerated. To help you in your search, here's a look at how to find an inmate based on whether they are in a county, state, or federal institution.
County jails can be a little tricky when doing an inmate lookup only because there are so many counties across the United States. Fortunately, a lot of counties now have online databases of people that are or have been in custody in county jails. Cook County in Illinois (where Chicago is located), for example, has an online service that allows the public to search for inmates using first and last names. Additionally, some genealogy websites compile thousands county records into one place, allowing you to search county jail bookings from across the country. Keep in mind that just because somebody has been held in a county jail does not mean they were necessarily convicted of a crime.
Finding an inmate in a state prison system tends to be a little easier since many states have government-run inmate locator services. Your best bet for finding a particular state's inmate locator service is by visiting that state's department of corrections website (which can be found through a simple Google search). Most department of corrections websites have their inmate locator displayed on their home page or will have it filed under a category such as "Inmate Info." Remember, however, that not all states currently offer an online inmate lookup. In some cases, you may have to call the state's department of corrections directly.
Finding a federal inmate is probably the easiest type of inmate lookup of all. The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) runs an online inmate locator that is simple and easy to use. This locator gives you a number of options for finding a particular inmate, such as by entering the inmate's BOP, DCDC, FBI, or INS numbers or searching by name. The name search also lets you narrow your results by entering information related to the inmate's race, sex, and age. Finally, the BOP inmate locator is fairly comprehensive since it covers federal inmates who served time from 1982 to the present. The search results will also show the inmate's current facility, whether he or she is still in BOP custody, or whether or not that inmate has been released.
Finding an inmate is surprisingly easy given the resources you can find on the internet. So long as you know whether the inmate you are looking for served time in a county, state, or federal facility then you should have enough information to find out the whereabouts of that particular inmate.
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