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How Friends and Family Members Can Find Information About an Inmate

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Over ten million people are arrested and end up in jail in some capacity every year in the United States. Given a detainee’s extremely limited contact with the outside world, learning about their situation can be difficult.

Looking for inmate information on someone you care about can be a difficult process. While there are a number of tools you can use, you need to make sure you’re using the right ones.

There are plenty of good reasons to search for an inmate’s information. You might want to learn about the nature of their charges, the length of their sentence, and their current location.

Read on to find out how to learn more about an incarcerated individual.

Where Are They Held?

An individual can be detained at a federal prison, a state prison, a private prison, or a local jail. The location of an inmate depends on the severity of the crime they were charged with.

Those convicted of a federal offense will end up in federal prison. If they committed a felony at the state level, they’ll be in state prison. Those serving jail time of less than one year for misdemeanor offenses are usually held in county jail.

If an arrested individual is waiting to make bail, police place them in custody at the local jail.

Your search for information needs to start by determining the inmate’s location. From there, you can find out more about their circumstances.

Start Online

The internet is a great resource for learning about inmates. With just a few pieces of basic information, you’ll be able to find where an inmate is currently held.

In some cases, just knowing their name can be enough to start the search. If this is all you know, you can try searching the federal inmate information system. Their location will turn up if they’re currently held in federal prison.

If you can’t find them in the federal database, things are a bit more difficult. You’ll have to search state prisons and county jails where you suspect they’re in custody.

The good news is that services like Jail Exchange’s inmate locator system can save you a lot of time. With this service, you’ll be able to quickly search the records of federal and state prisons and county jails.

You might need to try multiple states or municipalities before you can locate the person you’re looking for, but it’s much more efficient than searching individual databases.

Other Information You Can Find

Once you’ve found where someone is in custody, you can learn more about their situation. You might need to verify their identity or learn the nature of their charges.


Whenever someone is arrested and charged with a crime, the police will take their picture. In many cases, this is listed on the database that details their location.

Access to a picture helps you determine if you’ve found the individual you’re looking for.

Inmate Charges Information

Most databases also list the sentencing details associated with the inmate. This includes the crimes they’re charged with and how long they’ll be incarcerated for.

Accuracy of Databases

While many databases are accurate, your search may not turn up the results you were hoping to find. Inmates are regularly transferred to different facilities and it may take a few days for the databases to reflect the change in location.

If this happens, don’t lose hope and keep searching regularly. You’re likely to find updated information soon.

If the individual is already out of jail, you won’t find information on their location on any inmate database. It’ll simply show the day they left custody.

This is done to protect the privacy of the recently incarcerated, but it can be incredibly frustrating when trying to locate a loved one. For help, you could try contacting the public records office.

Why Information on a Prisoner Is Important

If you suspect a loved one is being held in custody, locating them and learning about their situation allows you to offer your support. It can also grant you peace of mind.

Send Care Packages

In many instances, you can send a care package to an inmate. You’ll need to order their package from an approved vendor to ensure that it contains approved items.

These can include food items like coffee, certain kinds of entertainment, and personal hygiene products. Care packages can dramatically improve the quality of life for an inmate and let them know that someone on the outside still supports them.

Plan Visitation

Visiting an inmate presents a host of challenges. You’ll need to fill out an application, submit a background check, and complete the necessary paperwork. Finding the inmate you want to visit allows you to plan ahead.

These visits are incredibly important for the health of the inmate. Prisoners who have visitors are much less likely to re-offend. Visits can also reduce an inmate’s depression and anxiety and improve their behavior.

Plan for Release

When a loved one is released from custody, they’ll need your continued support. They might have difficulty finding work and housing and will need someone to lean on while they get back on their feet.

Knowing their release timeline allows you to develop a plan of action for them. You might be in a position to help them find a job or offer them a place to stay.

Find Inmate Information Easily

If a loved one is incarcerated, you need to locate them and learn all you can about their situation if you wish to offer your support. They need to know that you still care about them while they serve their sentence.

While navigating the many databases that contain inmate information can be frustrating, using Jail Exchange for your inmate information search helps simplify the process. Their collection of online databases puts federal, state, and county records in one convenient location.

Need help finding an incarcerated friend or family member? Reach out to the Jail Exchange team to see how we can help.

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