How to Find Someone in Prison, Jail, or Correctional Facility

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Find Someone Who is in Prison
Lear about the prison and correctional system.

If you need to find someone in prison, it is essential to know in what type of facility they are incarcerated. A prison, also known as a penitentiary or correctional facility, is where individuals are physically confined and deprived of various personal freedoms.

Individuals held within prisons and corrections facilities have been either charged with a crime or convicted of a crime. Individuals accused of a crime are incarcerated until they are brought to trial or released. Those who are officially charged with a crime will remain in a prison or jail facility until they complete the duration of their sentence.

An inmate is a person confined to an institution such as a prison (as a convict) or hospital (as a patient).

There are several reasons why you may want to locate someone, including:

  • You may want to help them with bail
  • You need to “put money on their books” so they can buy items while behind bars
  • You are a law enforcement official and need to interview the individual for a case
  • You’re a private investigator who is working on a missing person case

What are Corrections?

Corrections refer to the supervision of persons arrested for, convicted of, or sentenced for criminal offenses. Correctional populations fall into two general categories: institutional corrections and community corrections.

Who Operates Prisons?

Federal, city, county, state, and military officials operate most prisons. In some cases, private organizations run the facility under contract with a government organization.

Prison Staff / Employees

The primary administrative officer in charge of a prison is the Warden. The Warden oversees the operations of the correctional facility. In addition, they manage the activities of the facility staff. Also, they are responsible for managing the existing facilities (buildings and equipment).

A Correctional Officer is a person who is responsible for the supervision of prisoners in a jail, prison, or detention center. Other terms for prison officers include Corrections Officer, Correctional Officer, Prison Guard, Detention Officer, and Prison Warder.

In general, correctional officers are responsible for the care, custody, and control of arrested individuals. The individual may be awaiting trial or convicted of a crime and is serving time in prison or jail. Corrections officers are also responsible for the safety and security of a correctional facility.

The federal or state government, city, or county employs most prison officers in many states. However, private companies employ many Correctional Officers as well.

As of this writing, there were approximately 500,000 prison officers in various facilities throughout the United States.

How to Find Someone Who is in Prison?

Before you begin, knowing why you want to find the individual is essential. For example, are they a family member, and you want to know where they are? Or are you planning to visit them and want to ensure you understand the suitable correctional facility? Perhaps, you want to send them money and want to know the process. Or do you want to make sure they are still locked up?

Whatever the reason, the easiest way to find someone in prison is to visit the website Vine. VINE is a website that lets victims of crime and other concerned citizens access information about offenders. The service is available via the website, a mobile app, and a toll-free number. Victims can register to receive alerts about inmate status changes via phone, email, and text.

To search, visit the website and select the appropriate state from the drop-down menu. After you make a selection, you will go to the corresponding state’s VINE home page. From there, you can search a statewide inmate database or drill down into county databases, where available. From there, you can find a specific offender, edit your registration details, or access additional resources.

Click on the “Find an Offender” icon to find an offender. From the next page, enter the incarcerated person’s last and first name. Alternatively, you can enter their inmate ID number if you have it. In addition, click on the “Advanced Search” link to add other search parameters. For example, you can add the Facility Name, Date of Birth, and Age Range.

Online Search Forms by State

In most states, the Department of Corrections website will have an explanation of how to search for incarcerated individuals. However, not all states provide online access to inmate records. I’m putting together a list of links to those states that offer online search forms, and I’ll post the links here soon.

Please note that the terminology used for the search forms and queries may vary from state to state. For example, you’ll see inmate locator, prisoner search, offender search, and incarcerated lookup. In addition, other states use terms like “residents” and “individuals in custody.”

How to Find an Inmate in a Federal Prison

To find someone in federal prison, use the Federal inmate locator. This tool allows you to search a database of federal inmates incarcerated since 1982. Once you find the individual, you can use the Federal prison facility locator to learn more about the specific facility where they are an inmate. This search provides details on the type of prison and the security level—for example, minimum security, maximum security, etc.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (often referred to operationally as the BOP) is a federal law enforcement agency. The Bureau is a subdivision of the United States Department of Justice. The Bureau of Prisons is responsible for administrating the national prison system in the United States of America. The Bureau’s purpose is to:

  • Provide more progressive and humane care for Federal inmates
  • Professionalize the prison service and its operation
  • Ensure consistent and centralized administration of the federal prisons in operation at the time

According to its official website, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has more than 119 prison institutions. Further, the Bureau includes six regional offices. Its headquarters is in Washington, D.C., with two prison staff training centers and 28 community corrections offices. However, these numbers change each year due to prison openings and closings. So, check the official website for the most up-to-date numbers.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons is responsible for the custody and care of over 200,000 federal offenders in the national prison system. Approximately 85 percent of these federal inmates are physically in correctional facilities or detention centers that the Federal Bureau of Prisons manages. The remainder of the inmates and confined through agreements with state and local governments. Also, through contracts with privately-operated community corrections centers, detention centers, prisons, and juvenile facilities.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons is also responsible for carrying out all judicially mandated federal executions (other than those carried out under military law) in the United States and maintains the federal lethal injection chamber in Terre Haute, Indiana.

How to Search an Inmate’s Background

If you need to learn more about an incarcerated person, a BeenVerified Background Search Report allows you to search billions of public records online in just a few seconds. Search for criminal records, bankruptcies, and more. In addition, you can search for people using an address, phone number, and email search. BeenVerified offers an easy and affordable way to run a background search.

Key Statistics about Prisons and Correctional Facilities

As of the end of 2015:

  • Adult correctional systems supervised more than 6.7 million people in the United States,
  • About 1 in 37 adults (or 2.7% of all adults) was under some form of correctional supervision
  • More than 2.1 million people were either under the jurisdiction of state or federal prisons or in the custody of local jails.
  • The state prison population decreased by almost 2% from 2014 to 2015
  • On an average day, county and city jails confine approximately 721,300 inmates

For more in-depth stats, visit the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The Bureau provides data and research on state and federal prisoners, jail populations, probation, and administrative data on jail facilities and staff.

Prison and Prisoner Resources

Following are resources for prisons, correctional institutions, jails, and inmate searches.

  • Amnesty International – Amnesty International is a global network of human rights activists campaigning to end human rights abuses. Their website provides resources, news, and data on human rights abuses worldwide.
  • Corrections Connection Network – Provides news, data, and vendor intelligence for the corrections community. Provides resources, tools, and forums for corrections professionals. Also, a great place to stay in touch with the latest news about what is going on within the system. Includes links to inmate locate queries for each state.
  • PrisonMap.com – PrisonMap.com shows aerial photos of prisons in the United States.
  • Prison Policy Initiative – Attempts to document the impact of mass incarceration on individuals and communities to improve the criminal justice system. The organization produces cutting-edge research to expose harm created by mass incarceration. The sponsors’ advocacy campaigns generate awareness about the issues.

What Do Private Investigators Need to Know

Private investigators and law enforcement officers should be familiar with prisons. In some cases, people will hire a PI to help find someone who is in prison. In addition, PIs often enter prisons to talk to inmates who may have been a party to a crime or witnessed some act.

If you have any questions about how to find someone who is in prison, jail, or otherwise incarcerated, please leave a message below.

Michael Kissiah is the owner of Brandy Lane Publishing, LLC, which owns and operates a small portfolio of websites, including eInvestigator.com. Michael created eInvestigator.com more than 20 years ago after working as a private investigator in the state of Florida. Since that time, he has become an expert at how to find information online and has written over 1000 articles on topics related to the investigation industry. In addition, he is the author of the "Private Investigator Licensing Handbook", available at Amazon.com.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Well that is so interesting because I can’t find my son either. The info I found said he is released from federal custody. Then he was in a holding position in Durham N.C. jail. Then we got a collect call about 2 weeks ago and we were not home. It came from Northern Neck Va. I had never heard of that place. I tried to find him there but the information says he is not there. My son is African American and has a diagnosis of schizo-affective disorder. We all know what happens to African American males whether they have a mental illness or not. I can’t sleep well anymore. I don’t know who I am suppose to turn to in order to find him.

  2. TO WHOM THIS MAY CONCERN;
    I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO LOCATE MY SON FOR THE LAST 4 MONTHS TO NO AVAIL. THE LAST INFORMATION I SAW OF HIM WAS ON THE ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION INMATE SEARCH. IT SHOWED HIS INFORMATION SUCH AS HIS ID NUMBER, BUT DID NOT HAVE A COURT DATE, PAROLE DATE, OR THE TYPE OF CRIME THAT HE COMMITTED. AFTER THE NEWS WE HEARD ABOUT THEY WAS LETTING OUT A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF PRISONERS DUE TO THE COVID 19 OUTBREAK HIS INFORMATION WAS NO LONGER ON THE SIGHT. WE ARE JUST TRYING TO FIND OUT HIS LOCATION AND INFORMATION TO KEEP IN TOUCH WITH HIM. IF YOU CAN HELP US IT WILL BE DEEPLY APPRECIATED. HIS NAME IS ARMANI GLENN, AND HIS DATE OF BIRTH IS DECEMBER 19, 1989. PLEAE CONTACT ME WHEN YOU FIND OUT MY SONS WHEREABOUTS PLEASE AND THANKYOU IN ADVANCE

    • This same exact thing happened to me. Out of nowhere my friend, who was only recently arrested, just disappeared and no one can tell me where he is. He just dropped off the face of the Earth and his court date on VINE says it is canceled and will be rescheduled, but it doesn’t say when. If you were able to find your son, or any more info about what is going on, please let me know.

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